Putting a dollar value on that tree in your yard

A view of a large banyan tree that overlooks the 17th green of the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club in Miami, Florida.

Today being Arbor Day, we thought we would look into the economic value of trees. There are, of course, lots of things you can do with lumber, but what is the value of a living tree? It turns out to be surprisingly high.

Take the Ficus tree outside our office window. It’s about two stories tall, and it’s worth $152 a year, according to a calculation made by software called i-Tree.

“There are three main parts to the calculation,” says Dave Nowak with the U.S. Forest Service. He is one of the creators of i-Tree, which arrived at that $152 value by accounting for the Ficus tree's carbon absorption, how it shades our  building, lowering energy costs, and how it affects the water table by reducing stream flows and improving water quality.

John McNeil is the manager of forestry for the town of Oakville in Ontario, Canada, one of many local governments that use i-Tree.

“We used it to quantify the form function and value of Oakville’s urban forest,” McNeil says.

The value of Oakville’s trees is $2.5 million each year. The city of Pittsburgh recently used i-Tree and determined that every dollar the city invests in tree planting generates $3 in economic benefits.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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