Sacramento's tree canopy has been named one of the nation's 10 Best Urban Forests.
The distinction was announced Tuesday by American Forests, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. That city also made the top 10 list, along with Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Denver; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; New York; Seattle; and Portland, Ore.
"It's a great recognition of what Sacramentans have contributed for decades," said Ray Tretheway, executive director of the Sacramento Tree Foundation and a former City Council member.
The selections were based on an in-depth survey funded by the U.S. Forest Service that included independent data gathering and a review by a panel of forestry experts. Among other things, winners demonstrated a sustained investment in urban forests and participation by nonprofits and citizens.
The winners were evaluated on six criteria: civic engagement, strategies to address city infrastructure challenges, public accessibility of urban forest, health of trees, documented knowledge about the urban forest and forest management plans.
In Sacramento, the investment includes a city forestry staff that plants and maintains about 115,000 trees along sidewalks, roads and in parks.
Many times that number of trees are maintained on private property in the city.
The Sacramento Tree Foundation and Sacramento Municipal Utility District, plus a small army of citizen volunteers, plant some 13,000 trees a year on private land to beautify the city, clean the air and create energy-saving shade.
"Today's urban forest is the result of an early vision, and the leadership and stewardship of many people who realized the value and beauty trees bring to a community," Jerry Way, city public works director, said in a statement.
Sacramento's commitment is so strong that it formally calls itself the "City of Trees." By some estimates, it has more trees per capita than any major city in the world, including Paris, although Tretheway conceded that accurate comparisons are difficult because tree counts change constantly and methods vary.
While Sacramento can take pride in the recognition, he said, it is also a reminder that less-privileged neighborhoods still lack trees.
"We're beginning to understand how tree canopies affect the health and well-being of the public," he said. "The city now has to complete the urban forest canopy in all neighborhoods."
One such effort is a tree foundation program to plant 30,000 trees in the city in 12 months, with a deadline of March 7.
Tretheway said the effort is "on target" and may actually exceed the goal by a few thousand trees.
For more information about the 10 Best Urban Forests designation, visit http://bit.ly/14P4tYB