Take Action!

Take Action To Plant and Preserve Trees

An Institutional Road Map for Communities, Businesses, Residents, and Large Landowners

You understand the value of trees and would like to take action. Where do you start? This road map offers practical suggestions from the Cleveland Tree Coalition that you can take to expand tree canopy on your property and in your community. Suggested action steps generally progress from easier to more complicated, but there’s no particular order to them. If you find an action that interests you, take it! Every step helps to advance the Cleveland Tree Plan.

Four people planting a tree for Arbor Day

Action Steps and Resources

Click on any of the actions below to learn more.

1. Plant a tree

Plant and steward a tree on your property to benefit the entire community! Read about the many benefits of trees.

City of Cleveland process for obtaining a permit to plant in public right-of-way

Be advised that planting on tree lawns requires a permit in Cleveland and many other municipalities, because tree lawns are in the public right-of-way. Use this process to apply for a permit in Cleveland:

  1. A City of Cleveland forester inspects the site to see if it meets the City’s planting criteria
  2. If the site passes, the resident chooses from a short list of species that are city-approved
  3. Resident sends Urban Forestry a copy of work order/estimate signed by them and an ISA-certified contractor
    • Resident includes workers comp and liability insurance certificates for the contractor
  4. Urban Forestry issues resident a no-fee permit to plant

2. Join the Cleveland Tree Coalition

If you are a business, organization, or government office that resides or works within Cleveland, appoint a representative to attend Cleveland Tree Coalition meetings and participate in working groups.

If you are an individual who cares about trees in Cleveland, you are invited to join the Forest City Working Group. Contact Cathi Lehn to learn more.

3. Take a class

There are a variety of local options for tree care classes, including:

4. Form a tree committee for your institution or neighborhood

  • Review your company’s internal information and policies and start a committee of employees who have interest and/or expertise in trees.
  • Talk with your city council representative to find out if there is an active tree committee in your neighborhood and to help identify others who may be interested in joining.
  • Have your committee members take a tree care class.
  • Create a tree plan for your institution or neighborhood to advance your tree efforts.

5. Apply for recognition as a tree institution

6. Celebrate Arbor Day

In Ohio, Arbor Day is celebrated annually on the last Friday in April.

7. Partner in local tree efforts

Contact your local community development corporation, ward council person, and/or community forester to identify potential partners for a tree project in your neighborhood.

8. Hire or contract with certified arborists for tree care

Certified arborists are professionals who have demonstrated knowledge in all aspects of tree care. Hiring or contracting with certified arborists ensures that your trees will receive comprehensive care that will extend their lives and minimize maintenance down the road.

9. Encourage your local government representatives to support tree legislation

Tell your representatives—from city council all the way up to your U.S. Congress members—about how trees build healthy communities and economies, and why trees are important to you, their constituent. Send them an Arbor Day postcard; call their office; or write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

10. Conduct annual tree risk assessments

Annual risk assessments consist of limited visual assessment of all or some trees on your property to assess and prioritize maintenance needs.

11. Calculate your existing tree canopy

Look up existing tree canopy cover and how cover has changed in your parcel, neighborhood, city, or watershed using data from the Cuyahoga County Urban Tree Canopy Assessment.

12. Estimate the value of the benefits that your trees provide

Use i-Tree software and existing canopy data to estimate the value of the benefits that your trees provide.

13. Create a list of shovel-ready tree planting projects on your property

The Cleveland Tree Coalition is always looking for tree planting projects that might qualify for different types of funding opportunities. If your business or community has a project that can accommodate 25 trees or more, let us know about it.

  • Identify the number, location, and size of trees that could be planted on your property
  • Agree to steward newly planted trees

14. Build partnerships

Many funding opportunities are looking to support diverse partnerships, not just among environmentally minded groups but also with community-based organizations. The Cleveland Tree Coalition and the Forest City Working Group seek to build partnerships across institutions and individuals, respectively. In your community, look for opportunities to plant and steward trees with schools, churches, libraries, community leaders, businesses, and others. Find common ground by considering which benefits of trees will speak best to the interests of new partners (tree benefits have been updated and broken down by Cleveland neighborhood in the Cleveland Tree Plan 2020 Progress Report). Coalitions make projects—and trees—more resilient over time.

Increasingly, tree funding opportunities are asking applicants to create projects that will build racial equity. Strong projects and applications include project leaders who are Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and project sites in neighborhoods that have seen historic disinvestment. As you build partnerships, consider the diversity of your leadership across race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identities, and disability.

15. Provide socially responsible, community-minded tree maintenance

Trees support jobs, which accounts for part of the economic benefits that trees provide to communities. Planting and maintenance investments can support local businesses that have been certified by the Small Business Administration. This is one way that trees can build social equity.

  • Contract with local minority-, women-, and veteran-owned enterprises – find them in the SBA.gov database
  • Partner with green workforce development programs; your community development corporation or council person can help you find local options

16. Apply for funding to inventory trees and create a tree plan

Many funding opportunities for trees exist, ranging from public to private, and from local to state and federal funding. Local funding opportunities include the Cuyahoga County Healthy Urban Tree Canopy grant program. Qualifying applicants include a community development corporation, municipality, or nonprofit.

  • If you’re not a qualifying applicant, you can partner with one!

17. Conduct a comprehensive tree inventory

  • Refer to minimum standards for tree inventories suggested by Cleveland Tree Coalition. Work with your local municipality to refine the set of data that your inventory will collect and the format of those data.
  • Share your inventory data with the Cleveland Tree Coalition and City of Cleveland.
  • Contract with tree care companies to obtain inventory data, or in some cases you may be able to partner with a local volunteer tree group or university to collect canopy data.

18. Refine estimates of the benefits that your trees provide

After you’ve estimated your tree benefits and completed a comprehensive tree inventory, you can use inventory data to refine estimates about the benefits that your trees provide. Software in the i-Tree suite uses detailed information about tree size, species, and location to calculate more accurate information about benefits that your trees provide to the public. Once you know the value of those benefits, share it with your constituents! Caring for your trees is an important way that you care for your community.

19. Set a tree canopy goal for your community or institution

When you know more about your existing tree canopy and the value it provides, set a goal for the future! Refer to our report, Reforesting The Forest City: The Cleveland Tree Canopy Goal, for more information about how the Cleveland Tree Coalition set a tree canopy goal of 30% for Cleveland.

20. Create a plan to reach your canopy goal

Create a customized action plan for your community or institution to achieve your canopy goal and prioritize investment in trees. Check out our report, the Cleveland Tree Plan: 2020 Tree Canopy Progress Report for ideas about how you can achieve future canopy gains.

22. Engage in carbon credit trading systems

Trees help reduce atmospheric carbon by removing it from the atmosphere and storing it in their tissue. (Read more about carbon sequestration at American Forests.)

As a consumer of services that generate carbon emissions, such as services related to travel, you can often purchase carbon credits to help offset your activities. Ask about carbon offsets when you rent a car, buy an airline ticket, or register for a conference.

You can also purchase carbon credits that offset your daily living and support forestry efforts through organizations such as the Arbor Day Foundation and through private companies.

City Forest Credits is a nonprofit that generates carbon credits from tree planting and preservation in urban areas, matching local buyers and sellers.

If you own a large amount of land and want to steward trees on that land for decades, you can look into selling carbon credits. The U.S. Forest Service has more info.

23. Support large-scale and innovative finance mechanisms for trees

  • Invest in an environmental impact bond
  • Work with local businesses that reclaim wood waste
  • Push for local legislation to plant, protect, and fund trees

24. Create an urban forest management plan for your institution

Pull together information about your existing canopy cover, tree risk assessment, tree inventory, and canopy goal to create a detailed urban forest management plan that will guide investment in tree canopy at your institution for years to come. Resources:

25. Shift from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance

Reactive tree maintenance takes place in response to storms, constituent complaints, and catastrophic events. It is often urgent and high risk, which means that it’s also expensive. In contrast, proactive tree maintenance includes regular assessments, trimming, and young tree training. It requires ongoing planning and investment but reduces the occurrences of catastrophic tree events over time. See that your urban forest management plan includes a plan to increase the amount of proactive maintenance over time, to reduce expenses that occur after unforeseen events.

  • Take regular, planned actions to maintain the trees that you have, to reduce the amount of unplanned maintenance that you have to do following storms or other unexpected events.
  • Create a pruning schedule to prune all trees on a cyclical basis; an ideal schedule is about 5 years long
  • Create a plan to responsibly manage tree pests and diseases
  • Maintain records of the actions that you’ve taken
  • More information: Ries P, Hauer R, and Peterson W. 2016. Systematic management of the urban forest [PDF]. Arborist News, June 2016, pp. 46-49.

26. Utilize contractor specifications that are in line with tree care industry standards

Ask your contractors to conduct all tree planting and maintenance in line with tree care industry standards. Working with certified arborists increases the chances that work will reflect the latest standards.

27. Partner with the city and the community to steward trees surrounding your property

Once you’ve become a good steward of trees on your property, don’t stop there! Trees throughout your neighborhood provide benefits to you by reducing heating and cooling costs, cleaning air, absorbing stormwater, and making you and your neighbors healthier. Trees also increase the value of your property through beautification—even trees that aren’t on your property! Partner with your city government and your community to steward trees in the treelawn and on adjacent properties. Then spread the word!