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Forest Conservation Priority Pilot Project

Forest Conservation Priority Pilot Project

Aerial view of tree canopy on Lake Mendota from Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin
Lake Mendota tree canopy

Forests are important carbon sinks: trees and soil absorb and store carbon which would otherwise reach the atmosphere. When a forest is lost, much of this stored carbon is released. Protecting existing forest land is thus a key strategy to mitigating climate change.

As part of our ongoing work to map and inventory the regional tree canopy, CARPC and the Urban Tree Alliance received funding from the John C. Bock Foundation in 2023 to map historical forest loss in the Mendota and Yahara watersheds. The Bock Foundation was established to preserve and protect Wisconsin’s old growth forests, particularly in the Lake Mendota watershed.

This project used aerial photography and satellite imagery to track forest change from 1937 to 2022. The results show a concerning decline of nearly 25% of old growth forest, primarily from loss to agricultural conversion. We hope to expand this project in the future, both to understand the changing landscape of our county and to protect remaining old growth forest.

Explore an interactive map of forest change in the Mendota/Yahara watersheds at capital-area-rpc.shinyapps.io/conservation