Lost Trees

The loss of trees is one of many factors contributing to the global warming crisis. Trees produce oxygen, trap climate-changing greenhouse gases and prevent floods. It is said that in the Middle Ages, a trip across Europe was always and everywhere in the shade, because the continent was basically a forest with a few towns and roads connecting through it.

Recently, the LawnStarter website undertook a survey of all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, to assess which states have lost the most trees in the past year. They used the “tree cover” definition provided by Global Forest Watch as “all vegetation greater than 5 meters in height,” noting that tree cover loss might have been the result of timber harvesting, the conversion of natural forest to residential development, or wildfires.

The states that lost the most tree cover, as a percentage of the total, last year, in order, were California (wildfires), Oregon (wildfires and logging), Colorado (wildfires) Arizona and, interestingly, Rhode Island. Over the past ten years, the biggest losers were, respectively, California, Oregon, Colorado, Maine and Michigan.

The states which best preserved their tree cover last year, were South Dakota, Alaska, Florida, Nevada and Wyoming. Over the last 10 years, the states that lost the lowest percentage of their tree cover were Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Texas and Georgia.

The report notes that in 2020 alone, wildfires destroyed over 4 million acres of trees in California—an area bigger than Connecticut—and this accounted for 40% of the total acres burned across the U.S. And it said that the prominence of coastal states at the top of the deforestation rankings was not an accident; coastal states are twice as developed as the rest of the U.S. The study’s researchers recommended that anyone reading this consider planting tree species that are native to your area, playing a small part in the much greater effort to repopulate our arboreal cover.


2021’s States That Lost the Most Tree Cover