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Urban forests and social inequality in the Pacific Northwest

Mills, John R., Cunningham, Patrick, Donovan, Geoffrey H.
Urban forestry & urban greening 2016 v.16 pp. 188-196
USDA Forest Service, canopy, forest inventory, forests, household income, land use, social inequality, social justice, statistical models, trees, urban areas, Cascade Mountain region, Oregon, Washington (state)
Research has shown there is a positive relationship between urban greenness and the well-being of city residents. But greenness is often unevenly distributed across a city, raising environmental justice issues. In 2011 and 2012 the USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis program installed ground plots in the urbanized areas of Oregon and Washington. We analyze these data for the urban areas west of the Cascade Mountains, linking it with demographic data from the U.S. Census to examine the relationship between greenness and socioeconomic status at a sub-regional scale. To explore some relations between urban forest measures and socioeconomic conditions and measures we developed four models: presence of tree canopy cover with a logistic mixed model, and on a subset of the data, percent tree canopy cover with a linear mixed model and tree count and tree species count with Poisson mixed models. We found that median household income, house value, land use, and years in the Tree City USA program contributed to explaining measures of greenness, such as canopy cover presence, percent canopy cover, tree counts, and tree species counts. This agrees with other studies, but does so at a broad scale covering the most densely populated areas in the Pacific Northwest.