Pledge by City of Houston
Plant 4.6 million new native trees by 2030Total Trees Pledged: 4,600,000
Supporting actions: Nursery Development, Environmental Education, City Policies and Community wide Tree Tracking Tool,
As “The Bayou City,” Houston is reconceiving and reclaiming waterways, greenways, and greenspaces across the city to make Houston cooler, greener, and more resilient to climate hazards. Houston's Resilient Houston strategy and Climate Action Plan both include a new citywide tree planting target of 4.6 million new native trees by 2030. This target was established in 2020 to meet multiple resilience goals and actions, including preparing for rising temperatures and flooding; improving air quality and the urban heat island effect; and restoring, protecting, and enhancing Houston’s natural ability to capture and store carbon.
In 2021, public and private partners worked collaboratively to develop an action plan for being able to meet this 10-year goal as part of Houston’s Tree Strategy Implementation Group (TSIG). The group established a strategy to maintain an average of 400,000 native trees planted each year using three main actions: a) continue large-scale native tree planting with multiple native species by TSIG members, b) create an educational campaign to encourage residential involvement in large-scale native tree plantings (encouraging the equivalent of two new trees for every Houstonian), and c) provide data and tracking of the planting of millions of native trees through 2030, which will be provided via an online City of Houston tracking system. The City continues to coordinate with the TSIG as it develops this platform and identify locations for enhanced planting efforts using data collected from the City’s urban heat island mapping campaign conducted in 2020 (www.h3at.org).
The City of Houston is leading by example through several initiatives to accelerate tree planting on City parks and rights of way, prioritize tree planting in underserved communities, and increase the city's overall tree canopy. The City’s Linear Forests Initiative ties into the current adoption program to create a plan to reforest esplanades across the city. The City’s Riparian Restoration Initiative targets all parks adjacent to bayous and tributaries for the restoration of forested riparian buffers, many of which have been removed or degraded due to development or stream channelization. This project will ultimately result in the restoration of more than 1,000 acres of habitat across 70 city parks, with an installation of more than 200,000 native trees.
In October 2022, the City adopted a municipal Nature Preserve Policy to preserve approximately 7,000 acres of natural habitat— over 20% of the City’s total park space— with a call to external organizations and private landowners to preserve the equivalent number of acres or more.
Tree Strategy Implementation Group:
Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Harris County Flood Control District, Harris County Toll Road Authority, Harris County Commissioner Precinct 2, Houston Parks Board, Houston Wilderness, Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD), Texas A&M Forest Service, Trees for Houston, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)- Houston District, Asakura Robinson, ALJ Lindsey, Clark Condon, Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), Resource Environmental Solutions (RES), Municipal Utility Districts, Nature's Way Resources, and SWA Group
City Policies. As described in the Climate Action Plan, the City plans to develop a management plan for municipal nature preserves, riparian buffers, and linear forests on street medians, to further increase tree canopy coverage on City property and assess additional opportunities to acquire new municipal park land for conservation or stormwater mitigation. The City is also looking to revise the City’s Open Space Ordinance to prioritize nature-based solutions and expand nature preserves would strengthen community-wide efforts to mitigate flooding and sequester additional carbon. The Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) recently created the Tree Protection Committee, a collaborative group of parks staff to review of the Street Tree and Park Tree ordinances and create a new species list for tree plantings. The new tree list will ensure that only native tree species are installed in our parks and streets. Native species are well adapted to our climate and therefore will require less water, provide habitat for wildlife, and will survive in the harsh urban environment.
Tree Tracking Tool. To track progress on the 4.6 million tree planting goal, HPARD is developing an online Resilient Houston Tree Planting Portal to collect data on all tree plantings within the City of Houston. Community Members and other tree planting organizations will be able to register tree plantings on Resilient Houston Tree Planting Portal.
Nursery Development. HPARD is also planning a Legacy Tree Program to propagate native seedlings for installation into restoration sites and other tree plantings around the city and is developing a tree nursery to hold 10,000 trees annually.
Environmental Education. The Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative aligns with many of the City of Houston’s priorities including Resilient Houston, Riparian Restoration Initiative, Complete Communities, 50/50 Park Partners, Bayou Greenways 2020, Houston Climate Action Plan, and more. Three task forces are working to provide equitable access: 1) Green Career Exposure is in place to increase accessibility to green careers for summer interns through the Hire Houston Youth program and to provide opportunities for career exploration, training, mentorship, and networking. 2) Park Activation and Nature-Smart Libraries works to activate the utilization of nature spaces and encourage children to take reading and STEM outside through collaborative efforts between Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Houston Public Library. Finally, 3) Resilient School Communities aims to convene partners who can help schools become more resilient and boost academic achievement, student engagement, and overall health.
Houston’s tree planting goal includes a commitment to planting native species. Native species are well adapted to our climate and therefore will require less water, provide habitat for wildlife, and will survive in the harsh urban environment.
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department’s (HPARD) Natural Resources Management Division provides long-term stewardship of the City’s forested habitat. Tree plantings on city property are maintained for a minimum of two years to support successful establishment.
HPARD engages community stakeholders in tree planting events and collaborates with tree planting partners on native tree giveaways.