In response to the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program funding announced today, American Forests Vice President of Urban Forest Policy Joel Pannell released the following statement:

Investing in Tree Equity not only saves lives but improves the day-to-day quality of life in our most vulnerable neighborhoods. We’re thrilled by the USDA Forest Service’s rapid implementation of Inflation Reduction Act funding for the Urban and Community Forestry program to advance Tree Equity across the nation.

American Forests has led the field in urban and community forestry advocacy for decades, coining the term Tree Equity because all Americans have a right to access green spaces and adequate, healthy tree canopy. We’re champions of the proven successes of the Urban and Community Forestry program in addressing these challenges equitably, and we were heartened by Congress’s recognition of and reinvestment in our most vulnerable communities through the historic $1.5 billion allocated to the program through last year’s Inflation Reduction Act.

Today’s announcement of $250 million in awards to states and territories will help transform their urban canopies on large scales, improving the landscapes where 84% of Americans live, work and play. These significant investments will allow work to occur at scale, bolstering the health of tree canopy to better position states and territories against the challenges escalated by climate change like catastrophic wildfire, nursery shortages, invasive species and diseases.

Likewise, the up to $1 billion announced for competitive grants by nonprofits, tribes, state and municipal governments and other entities will strengthen the health of communities — not only by lowering temperatures in areas that bear the brunt of extreme heat, improving air quality, and reducing stormwater runoff, but by creating economic opportunities and workforce development in the communities that need it most. From planning to planting, these projects will allow communities to prioritize neighborhoods that experience lower Tree Equity Scores to strengthen urban tree cover and improve access to vibrant green spaces for us all.

More information about the awards and grant funding opportunity is available on the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage.