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Urban FIA program

City Counting Down to Urban Forest Inventory

Moulton Street in Old Port, Portland, Maine. 20 July 2016. By Bd2media - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Newtown Square, PA, July 7, 2017 - This month, the city of Portland and the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program will begin an urban inventory of trees, green space, and ground cover on public and private land for the greater Portland metropolitan area.

“More than 80 percent of the Nation’s population lives in urban areas, where urban forests are helping clean the air, reduce energy costs, and give people a vital connection to nature,” said Tony Ferguson, Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “The Forest Service’s Urban FIA Program is expanding to deliver knowledge that everyone engaged in urban nature resources can use to make forests healthy and sustainable.”

The Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, often called “The Nation’s Forest Census,” has been monitoring the current status and past trends of the Nation’s rural forests for nearly 80 years. The FIA program has established itself as the only comprehensive, field-based and annually updated inventory of all forest ownerships for each of the 50 states in terms of measuring forest land. Recognizing the value of trees in cities, the FIA program is expanding the census to include the nation’s urban metropolitan areas. Forest Service research has documented that urban trees benefit communities and people in a variety of ways, including benefiting human health by removing air pollution, providing shade that helps reduce energy consumption, and providing areas for recreation.

"Portland looks forward to our partnership with the U.S. Forest Service's Urban FIA program to improve our city's trees and environment,” said City Arborist Jeff Tarling. “The City of Portland has long been known as ‘the Forest City’ and our trees help make our city a great place to live, work and visit. We're thankful that our Urban FIA partnership will help us keep the 'forest' in our Forest City!"

Just as FIA analysts have provided states with statistics on trees for decades, the program will now provide annual statistical updates for cities, with annual updates and more comprehensive analytical reports published online every 5 years.

Two hundred Forest Inventory and Analysis plots will be inventoried over the next 5 years in Portland, with each plot measuring about 98 feet in diameter. Inventory plots are selected randomly without regard to ownership in an effort to ensure that the inventory is free from bias and reflects the true condition of a city’s urban forest resources.

USDA Forest Service and city staff are contacting selected  landowners in the greater Portland metropolitan area by mail, email, phone, or in person to ask permission to monitor trees and ground vegetation on their property. Participating in the Urban FIA program is voluntary. If permitted access to property, Forest Service staff (all of whom will be carrying identification cards) will be on site from between half an hour to10 hours depending on the amount and condition of vegetation within the sample area. A variety of forest health factors will be monitored in the urban inventory, including:

  • Tree species – What trees species exist and what are most abundant?

  • Tree numbers and tree size – Is the urban area losing or gaining trees, and how quickly are trees growing? 

  • Tree survival and mortality – How well are trees surviving in the urban area? 

  • Tree crown condition – What is the overall health of a tree, how well is it growing, and how is it affectinplants growing underneath?

  • Tree Damage – Identifying damage will contribute to effective management plans.

  • Invasive plants – What species exist, and what is their abundance, distribution and effects on urban areas?

  • Ground Cover – Are there other plants, permeable (gravel, bare soil) or  impermeable surfaces (asphalt, cement)?

The Urban FIA program will be operational in 26 cities this year. More information on the Forest Service’s Urban FIA Program is available at:

Information on the FIA Program can be found at: 


The mission of the Northern Research Station is to improve people's lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.


The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains world-renowned forestry research and wildland fire management organizations. National forests and grasslands contribute more than $30 billion to the American economy annually and support nearly 360,000 jobs. These lands also provide 30 percent of the nation's surface drinking water to cities and rural communities; approximately 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).

Last modified: July 7, 2017