City Cast

Boise’s Urban Canopy

Blake Hunter
Blake Hunter
Posted on April 24   |   Updated on June 28
Sunshine on trees in a park in Boise.

Trees are Boise's namesake, and its future. (Tony Anderson / Getty)

Living up to the name “City of Trees” requires quite a bit of work, especially as Boise grows. To that end, the Elaine Clegg City of Trees Challenge has planted 15,293 trees in the Boise area, and almost 150,000 seedlings in nearby forests since it was started in 2020.

The tree planting challenge was recently renamed in honor of former city council president Elaine Clegg, who is now the CEO at Valley Regional Transit.

The goal of the challenge is simple: plant an urban tree for every household in the city, and a seedling in Idaho’s forests for every Boisean by 2030. If it’s successful, it’ll double Boise’s canopy coverage, raising it to 30%.

The Treasure Valley Canopy Network, the City of Boise, and the Nature Conservancy of Idaho have led this initiative through surveys, resources like this tree care guide, and sometimes even offering free trees.

A map of Boise showing hot areas in red and cooler areas in green and blue.

A thermal map of evening temperatures across the valley show the correlation between trees and reduced heat. (Earthstar Geographics / Treasure Valley Canopy Network)

This challenge is a key part of the city’s climate action plan. The city estimates that the 15,000 trees planted so far will sequester almost 40 million pounds of carbon, remove 312,000 pounds of air pollutants, and conserve almost 50 million kilowatt hours of energy by 2050.

With 85,000 trees left to plant before 2030, most of the focus is being directed toward places with fewer trees.

The coolest areas of Boise, like the North End and Bench, are up to 13 degrees cooler than areas with fewer trees, like downtown.

We’re also just beginning to fully understand the ways that trees impact our mental health, but data shows that being around trees can reduce your psychological stress by a third. And being around any greenery is good — but there’s a distinct difference in the benefits between just being around grass and being around trees.

If you’ve been thinking about planting a tree, this is the perfect time to do it. We probably won’t get much more frost, if any, and trees need some time to grow strong roots before the shock of summer heat bears down on them. If we’re going to keep beating records for our summer heat, we’re going to need to keep growing our urban canopy.

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