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New Study Highlights Impact and Importance of Wake County’s Trees










Wake County has released a new Land Cover Analysis and Tree Canopy Assessment report designed to spark conversations and identify opportunities to enhance our county’s green spaces in the face of rapid growth.

“Trees provide critical community infrastructure by helping clean the air we breathe, filtering the water we drink and mitigating the impacts of a changing climate,” said Shinica Thomas, chair, Wake County Board of Commissioners. “As a board, we strive to achieve healthy, equitable and sustainable outcomes for all of our residents. This study is another tool we can use to guide future decisions as we plan for the next wave of growth.”

From 2010 to 2020, the countywide population climbed from 900,993 to 1,129,410 — an increase of 25.4%, which is more than 2 1/2 times the growth rate of North Carolina and nearly 3 1/2 times the national growth rate.


Over the past several years, Wake County residents have expressed concern over how that growth has affected county’s traditional farm and forest lands. A chief concern cited by many is the loss of trees, especially in areas that are more socially vulnerable.

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Recent land and tree study presents snapshots in time of land cover, tree canopy and potential tree planting locations throughout Wake County from 2010 to 2020. In addition to the countywide report, Wake’s 12 municipalities received versions specific to their planning jurisdictions

What the Study Shows:

  • As of 2020, Wake County’s tree canopy had a combined estimated value greater than $3.2 billion.

  • Wake County had 54.2% tree canopy cover in 2020, with over half of those trees in good or very good condition.

  • Over their lifespan, Wake County’s trees are estimated to have collectively removed and stored over 10.2 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere. The value of this stored carbon equates to more than $1.74 billion.

  • Each year, Wake County’s trees removes 11,022 tons of pollutants from the air, absorbs 414,710 tons of carbon dioxide, and Intercepts 8.1 billion gallons of stormwater.

What’s Next:

The information in this report establishes baseline statistics for land cover and tree canopy in Wake County.

County staff will study the report’s findings and use that data to help educate the public and support future tree planting and preservation initiatives. One planting project is already in the works for 2024.

Additionally, the data can assist policymakers, planners and community stakeholders in securing funding to support these activities.

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