Publication Date

May 2023

Unlike most major U.S. cities, developed and industrialized decades earlier, Atlanta retains a large portion of its native and originally forested land with a high diversity of species, rare plants, and even old-growth trees. A 2008 baseline canopy analysis found that while the city’s tree canopy cover was among the highest in the country (47.9%), its canopy and high-quality forests were vulnerable to loss and fragmentation since only 4.9% of the canopy was on public land. In 2016, the city authorized the use of its Tree Trust Fund to purchase high-quality forested land for perpetual protection and established criteria for evaluating, prioritizing, and selecting these natural areas for purchase. The first acquisition occurred in 2020, resulting in the protection of Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve, a 216-acre oak-hickory forest, one of the largest remaining mature forests in the city, which was under major threat of industrial development. This case study discusses this innovative funding mechanism and the selection criteria for identifying high-quality urban forests.