The Biden administration said Wednesday it’s making $1 billion available to help plant and care for trees in cities and towns, a potent means to soften the impacts of a warming climate.
“Investing in our urban forests is investing in the health and wellness of our communities,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore in a news release.
The grants — which require a 1-to-1 match from recipients in most cases — will come through the agency’s urban and community forestry program, funded by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The program typically receives a fraction of that amount, such as the $36 million in annual appropriations Congress provided in fiscal 2022.
In addition to their environmental value — trees reduce the urban “heat island” effect and clean the air — urban forests and street trees can boost property values and attract investment in disadvantaged neighborhoods, officials said. More than 141 million acres of forest in the U.S. is in towns and cities, and the Forest Service’s urban forestry program protects around 12 billion trees, according to the Biden administration.
Wednesday’s announcement also includes up to $250 million specifically to states and territories to promote more equitable access to trees and their benefits, with the largest allocation, $43 million, going to California.
The $1 billion would be available to local governments and tribes, as well as nonprofit organizations and universities. Projects could be for as little as $100,000 or as much as $50 million in five-year agreements, the Department of Agriculture said.
The $250 million for states won praise from the National Association of State Foresters.
“Put simply, community forests are a fundamental asset to sustainable society,” the NASF said. “While state forestry agencies have long helped to manage roughly two-thirds of the nation’s forests, today’s announcement marks a significant increase in funding allotted to states for such purposes.”