Forests For Indy

Preserving Indianapolis' Remaining Urban Forests

Launched in spring 2018, Forests For Indy is a proactive, collaborative effort to identify and preserve Indianapolis’ remaining forests. It is made possible through the support of the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, The Conservation Fund and other private donors in Indianapolis.

Why Does Indianapolis Need Forest Preservation?

Urban forests are vulnerable. The more people choose to live in Indianapolis, the more green space is required — but the less we are likely to have — unless we create a plan for forest preservation. Planting trees is an important component of building our urban forest, but we currently cannot keep pace with ongoing tree loss.

Marion County’s current tree canopy is 33%, averaged across townships. Experts recommend a 40% to 60% tree canopy for cities located within central Indiana’s zone. This level of canopy protection reduces the urban heat island effect of higher temperatures and reduces storm water runoff.  To achieve just 40% canopy, we would need to plant 2.4 million trees today, each with a 20-foot canopy. Clearly, that’s an impractical, costly feat.

To keep Indianapolis vibrant, green, and livable, we need to conserve much of the tree canopy that remains in Marion County. Read this 6/4/18 Indy Star front-page story to find out why.

Developing coordinated healthy tree canopy programs across various land ownerships can help sustain desired tree cover levels and better manage the increasing negative effects of a heating climate. (see David J. Nowak, U.S. Forest Service senior scientist, quoted in “U.S. Cities are Losing 4 Million Trees Per Year,” 2/9/12,

The solution is already growing in our city’s backyard: let’s protect our urban forests.

Forests For Indy: Protecting Indianapolis Urban Trees.

The Forests For Indy Process

Identify and map currently unprotected forests in Marion County utilizing existing advanced mapping data with advice from an advisory team.

  • Assess forest quality based on remote sensing and on-ground evaluation.
  • Prioritize the most valuable forests in Marion County based on the community input.
  • Preserve the forests recommending and enacting the most feasible strategies for protection, maintenance, and accessibility.

What Forests Do for Cities

  • Forests Foster Wildlife: As anchors of biodiversity, urban forests serve as havens for sensitive plants and animals that have very limited or no habitat elsewhere for large distances.
  • Forests Improve Human Health: People living near green space are more physically active, have extended life spans, and report greater overall well-being. Even seeing natural spaces has been proven to effectively reduce stress, especially if initial stress levels are high (see U.S. Forest Service, “Urban Nature for Human Health and Well-being,” 2/1/18). Wild spaces provide natural opportunities for play through all stages of life.
  • Forests Provide Environmental Services: City trees have a proven track record of cooling summer heat, cleaning the air, and improving water quality. The most significant cost of neighborhood trees is planting and ongoing maintenance, but preserving forest tracts minimizes these costs while maximizing benefits.
  • Forests Support a Growing Economy: An urban forest enhances property values for the surrounding community and makes a neighborhood more attractive to neighbors by providing opportunities for recreational use and enjoyment of nature.
  • Forests Offer Quality of Life for All: There is a correlation between access to urban green spaces and socioeconomic status. Preserving forests give us an opportunity to help remedy systemic inequalities in our community.
  • Forests Meet Land Use Goals:  Preserving critical environmental areas is one of the ten widely accepted smart growth principles. And Marion County’s Comprehensive Plan lists enhancing the unique characteristics of all communities as one of six livability principles that should guide future development decisions.
  • Forests Help Meet Land Use Core Values: Plan 2020 Bicentennial Agenda for Indianapolis lists the following core values, all realized through preservation of Indianapolis’s forests: A More Resilient City, A Healthier City, A More Inclusive City, A More Competitive City. A city with a good forest canopy should provide hope to current residents and be attractive to new residents and businesses looking for a healthy place to live and operate.

Download an informational flyer about Forests For Indy, and view our interactive Story Map below. 

Read the Forests for Indy Executive Summary

Read the Forests for Indy Full Report

Project Leadership

Get involved! Take action!

Indiana’s forests need you! Be part of an active, engaged network of forest advocates from all over Indiana. What can you do? Join IFA! Volunteer! Or write to or call officials on behalf of Indiana’s forests.

Contact IFA’s outreach team for more information.