Chesapeake Bay Urban Tree Canopy Goals

A woman walking down a sidewalk shaded by old majestic treesUrban Tree Canopy: What is it?

Urban tree canopy (UTC) is the layer of leaves, branches, and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above.

What does it have to do with the Bay restoration strategy?

Trees provide stormwater management function by intercepting rainfall. The Stream ReLeaf (riparian forest buffer) strategy seeks to plant streamside forests in order to treat water before it reaches the Bay. However, in urban areas, stormwater by design goes from an impervious surface to a conveyance (like a curb and gutter) to an inlet to a pipe and into the Bay or one of its tributaries. So streamside forests in urban settings, where possible, would have little opportunity to treat stormwater as a main premise is to reduce flooding by getting the water from where it lands out into the Bay as quickly as possible. The Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) goals seek to improve water quality by reducing water quantity in urban areas by increasing UTC and reducing surface runoff.

What are the UTC goals?

The UTC goals were signed by the Chesapeake Executive Council (the Governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the U.S. Government as part if the Expanded Riparian Forest Buffer Goals in 2003 (

Who is participating in the UTC goals effort?

Thirty-six communities in Maryland have committed to participation in the UTC Goal effort to date. They include Annapolis, Baltimore, Baltimore County (29 communities), Bowie Cumberland, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, and Rockville. These communities have a combined population of over 1.4 million (this is more than one quarter of Maryland's urban population) and they fall within five of the State's ten Tributary Strategies watersheds (Upper Potomac, Middle Potomac, Upper Western Shore, Lower Western Shore, and Patapsco/Back). Baltimore and Annapolis have already adopted goals; the other communities are in the process of assessing their existing and potential UTC. For a map of UTC participating communities by Tributary Strategies watershed,  click here.

Technical assistance partners include MD DNR, the Chesapeake Bay Program, the US Forest Service, and the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Community Greening grant supports communities that have committed to UTC goals and urban tree planting.

Additional Urban Tree Canopy resources:

  • Strategic Urban Forests Assessment:
    Baltimore, Maryland (paper on methods for interpreting remote sensing data for trees, non-tree vegetation, and other surfaces).
  • Maryland UTC Project background and application
  • Chesapeake Bay Program UTC goal setting documents Summary:
    Working Guidelines for Implementing the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Urban and Community Tree Canopy Goals (
  • Proceedings from the Chesapeake Bay Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee’s Urban Tree Canopy Workshop (
  • Urban Tree Canopy Goal Setting: A Guide for Chesapeake Bay Communities

Baltimore City UTC Goal documents

  • Baltimore City UTC/land cover map embedded in a Google Maps viewer (by USFS Research/Univeristy of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab):
  • A Report on Baltimore City's Present and Potential Urban Tree Canopy (
  • Baltimore City Urban Tree Canopy Google Earth overlays (requires Google Earth 4.0) courtesy of US Forest Service, University of Vermont and the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (

Annapolis UTC Goal documents

  • A Report on Annapolis City's Present and Potential Urban Tree Canopy (

Frederick UTC Goal documents

Hyattsville UTC Goal documents

Cumberland UTC Goal document

Washington, DC UTC Goal documents

Fact Sheets

  • UTC Fact Sheet
  • Digital Remote Sensing Fact Sheet
  • Forest Opportunity Spectrum (FOS) Fact Sheet

GIS Tools

  • FOS GIS toolbox (

City of Annapolis UTC graphics © USDA Forest Service 2006

Current Situation map
Current Situation Pie Chart
Present to Possible Bar Graph