New study: Oklahoma City’s metro has more tree cover than any time in its history

Data pix.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) -- They're here on business.

Urban foresters Mark Bays and Riley Coy walk the paths at Will Rogers Park in search of a couple of big elms they heard about.

"First, you have to go up and hug the tree," smiles Bays, the Oklahoma Urban Forestry Coordinator.

Together, they measure diameter, crown spread, and height. Their efforts provide a tiny sliver of a new and much larger picture.

"You can imagine all the trees and whatever size they are," Bays says.

The Oklahoma Forestry Service, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, and the Oklahoma City Community Foundation got together for a first-of-its-kind survey of trees across more than 500 square miles of the metro.

They used satellites and thousands of tiny plots to get a picture of more than just fall colors.

Bays explains, "We see that it's a mosaic of trees. It's open space and prairie grass and woodlands."

What they found surprised them.

More than 22% of the area they surveyed is shaded by some kind of tree.

From their sample plots, the study estimates that around 65 million trees stand in our midst.

Of those, a little more than 13% are Eastern Red Cedar.

"It's native to every county in Oklahoma except the extreme Panhandle."

Take a look at any early picture of Oklahoma City and you'll be hard-pressed to find any trees at all.

So you have to figure the 22% canopy figure is greater than it has ever been historically.

Bays says that's a good thing for our health, for the local climate, and lots of other intangibles.

"We figured out that there is about $150 million annually that these trees are providing."

Fall colors and full benefits, all from our trees.

If you'd like to see a more detailed picture of the tree survey, click here.

'Is This a Great State or What?' is sponsored by WEOKIE.

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