USDA invests $1 billion to plant trees, expand green spaces to combat climate change

October 25, 2023

***Source-https: Castillo – First Published, 18th September 2023

As communities across the United States work to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat, trees and green spaces have emerged as an economical and effective solution. To help cities and counties bolster their green spaces, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $1 billion in funding Thursday for 385 projects nationwide.

“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,” said Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary in a statement. The investment is “supporting communities in becoming more resilient to climate change and combating extreme heat with the cooling effects of increased urban tree canopy, while also supporting employment opportunities and professional training that will strengthen local economies.”

The grants, which are competitive and financed through the Inflation Reduction Act, are intended to help administrators combat climate change and improve access to nature for constituents “in cities, towns and suburbs in cities, towns, and suburbs where more than 84% of Americans live, work, and play. Communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. Territories and Tribal Nations are receiving funding,” a statement about the investment says.

The awarded organizations and communities were selected from 842 applications, which requested more $6.4 billion in funding. Notably, the $1 billion investment represents the largest single USDA Inflation Reduction Act investment to date in urban and community forests. The statement notes that the high number of applications is indicative of a substantial need for more trees and green spaces.

“Studies show that trees in communities are associated with improved physical and mental health, lower average temperatures during extreme heat, and increased food security, and create new economic opportunities,” the statement says. “This historic funding will help the Forest Service support projects that increase tree cover in disadvantaged communities, provide equitable access to the benefits of nature, and deliver tangible economic and ecological benefits to urban and Tribal communities across the country.”

Those selecting the award winners took into account environmental justice, and used the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to help identify disadvantaged communities.

The mapping tool identifies disadvantaged communities that face burdens in the categories of climate, energy, health, housing including nature deprivation, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, workforce development, and other socioeconomic thresholds, the statement says.

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