Creating a Healthier, More Livable and Prosperous Phoenix

Phoenix is poised to become the next great American City. The Tree and Shade Master Plan presents Phoenix’s leaders and residents a roadma

Creating a Healthier, More Livable and Prosperous Phoenix

Phoenix is poised to become the next great American City. The Tree and Shade Master Plan presents Phoenix’s leaders and residents a roadmap to creating a 21st Century desert city. The urban forest is a keystone to creating a sustainable city because it solves many problems with one single solution. By investing in trees and the urban forest, the city can reduce its carbon footprint, decrease energy costs, reduce storm water runoff, increase biodiversity, address the urban heat island effect, clean the air, and increase property values. In addition, trees can help to create walkable streets and vibrant pedestrian places. More trees will not solve all the problems, but it is known that for every dollar invested in the urban forest results in an impressive return of $2.23 in benefits.

Phoenix has a strong foundation on which to build the future. Phoenix residents value natural resources and have voted repeatedly to invest in the living infrastructure. For instance, the Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative was passed twice with over 75 percent voter approval. This modest sales tax has purchased land for the Sonoran Preserve, funded habitat restoration efforts along Rio Salado, built new parks and planted hundreds of new trees. These projects and others like it provide the base for a healthy urban forest. Trees and engineered shade have the potential to be one of the city’s greatest assets and the Tree and Shade Master Plan provides the framework for creating a healthier, more livable and prosperous Phoenix.

The Urban Forest – Trees for People

The urban forest is a critical component of the living infrastructure. It benefits and attracts residents and tourists alike to live, work, shop and play in the city. Phoenix’s urban forest is a diverse ecosystem of soils, vegetation, trees, associated organisms, air, water, wildlife and people. The urban forest is found not only in parks, mountain preserves and native desert areas, but also in neighborhoods, commercial corridors, industrial parks and along streets. The urban forest is made up of a rich mosaic of private and public property that surrounds the city and provides many environmental, economic, and social benefits.

In order for the urban forest to be a profitable investment, Phoenix must do more than just plant trees. The entire lifecycle of the tree must be addressed because the current planting, maintenance, and irrigation practices are preventing many trees from providing their maximum return on investment. The Tree and Shade Master Plan provides a detailed roadmap to address these issues, as well as many others, with realistic and incremental steps. To succeed, this plan requires a long-term investment from the residents and leaders of Phoenix.

Trees are Solution Multipliers

Solution multipliers solve numerous problems simultaneously. Trees are a perfect example of a solution multiplier because when planted and maintained correctly, they can provide many economic, environmental, and social benefits. According to the US Forest Service, trees benefit the community by: providing a cooling effect that reduces energy costs; improving air quality; strengthening quality of place and the local economy; reducing storm water runoff; improving social connections; promoting smart growth and compact development; and creating walkable communities (US Forest Service and Urban & Community Forestry). Trees are high-yield assets; for example, the City of Chicago values its trees at $2.3 billion dollars. Trees have a documented return on investment (ROI) in Arizona of $2.23 for every $1 invested (US Department of Agriculture Forest Service). This demonstrates the important role that trees have within the city's economy. This is why it is critical to manage and invest in the urban forest; the health of the urban forest is closely linked to the economic health of the city.

Maintainable Infrastructure

Phoenix is a desert city that has a history of several decades of drought. In order to achieve a healthy urban forest we must use water wisely. Currently, 60 percent of Phoenix’s water is used outdoors, mainly for landscape irrigation. According to the City of Phoenix’s Water Services Department, Phoenix has an adequate sustainable water supply to meet the State of Arizona’s 100-year assured water supply standard. This includes growth in Phoenix’s system water demand over the next 20 years or more. Nonetheless, to achieve a maintainable urban forest, water must be used more efficiently. This is done with high-efficiency irrigation systems, use of drought-tolerant plant material, strategic placement of shade corridors and continued education. In order for a healthy urban forest to exist, it must be coupled with strong water management.


The Urban Forest Infrastructure Team and the Parks and Recreation Department are charged with coordinating and maintaining the Tree and Shade Master Plan. Many City departments will implement the plan as they work to fulfill their own missions. The Tree and Shade Master Plan will not only provide a framework to achieve an average 25 percent tree canopy coverage by 2030 but will also help to achieve many goals and policies from the Green Phoenix Initiative and the voter ratified General Plan.

The plan proposes incremental steps to achieve the 2030 vision and canopy goal. The City of Phoenix is beginning to put a process in place to preserve, maintain, and redevelop the urban forest. This plan intends to increase the quality of life and economic vitality of the city by recommending ways to create a sustainable urban forest for future generations.


Date Created
  • 2010

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