Source: X - Forests Ontario

The City of Ottawa hopes to dictate which neighbourhoods deserve more trees based on race and other identity factors, ensuring that even the urban forest canopy aligns with its diversity, equity, and inclusion priorities.

A report by Ottawa’s climate change and forestry officials is headed to City Council on Jun. 26. The report calls on the city to undertake a “tree equity analysis” across all urban areas to govern Ottawa’s tree planting strategy. 

“The distribution of urban tree canopy is frequently associated with socio-economic factors, with lower canopy cover neighbourhoods often having a strong representation of equity-deserving communities,” the report reads. 

“The City requires a methodology to identify areas of tree inequity and to prioritize tree planting in areas of the city that need it the most.”

The proposed methodology is called a “Tree Equity Score” and was established by the U.S. non-profit American Forests

“The Tree Equity Score method uses tree canopy cover data in conjunction with socio-economic and health measures of inequity. This approach produces a score that will identify neighbourhood-level gaps in the urban forest,” the report reads. 

The identity factors that the score takes into account are race, age, language, employment, health and income, among other things. 

“Neighbourhoods with lower Tree Equity Scores will be priority areas for tree planting. The lower Tree Equity Score for these areas indicates a need for increased tree planting to provide urban forest services and benefits,” the report reads. 

While the report asserts that neighbourhoods won’t be denied access to tree planting initiatives the “Tree Equity Score” will “guide the prioritization of tree planting and the development of neighbourhood-specific planting plans and programs, helping to ensure trees are planted where they are needed the most.” 

Other proposed scoring mechanisms include one proposed by Nature Canada that maps “the relationship between tree cover and income, as well as tree cover and proportion (of) racialized populations.” 

Meanwhile, the “Nature Score” was also floated which is based on public health measures.

If the proposal is approved by council, the resulting analysis will be used to determine priority areas for future tree planting.