The United States Department of Agriculture announced earlier this month that the Biden administration will invest more than $1 billion to improve “tree equity” and expand access to green spaces.
“Trees make a difference,” the USDA stated. “Studies show that communities with access to trees and green spaces are associated with improved health outcomes, reduced crime, lower average temperatures, and an influx of other kinds of investments and new economic opportunities.”
The $1 billion in taxpayer dollars will be used for 385 grant proposals to “increase equitable access to trees and green spaces.” The grants are funded through the administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.
The USDA noted that all of the funds will go to “disadvantages [sic] communities” in “all 50 states, two U.S. territories, three U.S. affiliated Pacific islands, and in several tribal communities.”
The additional green spaces will cool city streets, improve air quality, and promote food security, health, and safety, the agency reported.
The nonprofit’s website claims that maps of tree coverage in U.S. cities are “too often a map of income and race.”
“That’s because, due to decades of redlining and other discriminatory policies, trees are often sparse in neighborhoods with more low-income families and people of color,” American Forests states.
Atlanta, a city with 47.9% tree canopy, according to American Forests, will receive a $10 million grant from the federal government to promote tree equity.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “These investments arrive as cities across the country experience record-breaking heat waves that have grave impacts on public health, energy consumption, and overall well-being.”
“Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are supporting communities in becoming more resilient to climate change and combatting extreme heat with the cooling effects of increased urban tree canopy, while also supporting employment opportunities and professional training that will strengthen local economies,” he added.
Senior adviser to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation John Podesta claimed the projects would “improve air quality, keep city streets cool during sweltering summers, tackle the climate crisis, and create safer, healthier communities in every corner of America.”
In a statement to the DCNF, the USDA said, “Urban and Community Forestry is a covered program under the Agency’s Justice40 Initiative established through Executive Order 13985.”
“To advance the mission of Justice40, the UCF program delivers 40% of the program’s investments through established and new partnerships working to support disadvantaged communities experiencing low tree canopy and environmental justice issues,” the agency noted.
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