Environmental Policy at the Local Level

This is the third installation of the Environment Sandy Springs 2021 Election Issue series. It focuses on how the city of Sandy Springs could improve its stewardship of the community tree coverage by utilizing the American Forest’s Tree Equity Model, (TEM) to generate target tree canopy goals for each census block (neighborhood) in Sandy Springs.

How American Forest’s Tree Equity Model (TEM) Works

TEM calculates

  1. A tree equity metric based on the ratio of tree canopy coverage to population density as well as other variables,
  2. TEM then compares the tree equity metric to the actual tree canopy values for each U.S. Census block in a city.
  3. The discrepancy between a census block’s tree equity metric and the actual tree canopy coverage of a census block is then scored on a basis of 1-100 with a score of 75 being the cutoff point for a satisfactory but not equitable rating.
  4. The data is then aggregated into a municipal report.

How Sandy Springs Scores on the American Forest’s Tree Equity Measurements

If you are curious about how Sandy Springs fared in terms of TEM analysis, go to https://www.treeequityscore.org and type in Sandy Springs, GA . The first thing that you will note is that the Tree Equity scores of the Sandy Springs census blocks indicates that there is sufficient tree canopy to support the residents of 43 of  the 57 census blocks in the city.  You can also access the municipal report for Sandy Springs at https://www.treeequityscore.org/reports/place/sandy-springs-ga/

Using the Tree Equity model to set Non-Binding Tree Canopy Goals

Using the Tree Equity Model would change the way Sandy Springs tree canopy goals are defined. Instead of one city wide tree canopy goal, there would be tree canopy goals for each of the city’s 57 census blocks. The advantage of this approach is that city staff could easily and quickly identify the areas where the tree canopy is thinning.

Moreover, by establishing neighborhood tree canopy goals, the city would promote the engagement of residents in addressing tree canopy issues.  

Limitations of the Tree Equity Model

A limitation of the model is that there is no mechanism for performing medium or long range forecasts for the Sandy Springs urban forest. Long range forecasting will continue to require that the city assess the impact of environmental conservation measures on the tree canopy, collect objective measures of the health of the forest, assess how far along the tree canopy is in regard to its life cycle, etc  in order to calculate long range tree canopy forecasts.


We hope that this article has been informative. Its intent was to provide residents with information that would enhance their understanding of environmental issues as we prepare to select our elect officials for the next four years.