Tree Equity nonprofit receives historic $50M investment to deliver funding and technical assistance for urban and community forestry programs  

WASHINGTON – Today, conservation nonprofit American Forests received $50 million for its Tree Equity Catalyst Fund to help cities and frontline community organizations across America tackle extreme heat and provide equitable tree cover to historically disadvantaged communities. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award as part of over $1 billion in Tree Equity projects made possible by funding from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the largest-ever investment in urban forestry.  

“This visionary federal investment in American Forests’ Catalyst Fund will help build a more inclusive Tree Equity movement that has greater capacity to bring the healing power of trees to high-need neighborhoods all across the nation,” said Jad Daley, American Forests president and chief executive officer. “On the heels of the hottest summer in recorded history, cities and frontline leaders know that trees are life-saving natural infrastructure that we must have in every neighborhood to cool and clean the air, improve quality of life, and create new career opportunities. With these new federal funds, we will be able to provide direct grants and no-cost technical assistance to help those cities and organizations facing the highest barriers to get started in this critical work and to do it successfully.” 

Through this award from the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, American Forests will issue grants for early-stage, innovative urban and community forestry projects as well as funding for organizations with already-developed Tree Equity initiatives. Additionally, the organization aims to provide “wrap around” technical assistance, including staff guidance and American Forests’ powerful online tools and resources like the groundbreaking Tree Equity Score, workforce development programming, financing measures and coalition building. 

“The issue of Tree Equity is having its moment in the spotlight,” said Benita Hussain, Tree Equity Lead at American Forests. “This grant from the Forest Service is a game changer for communities who previously lacked the capacity to apply for funding like this, as well as the millions of people who will benefit from the improved mental, physical and economic benefits that trees provide.” 

This funding is critical and timely due to the extreme heat trends in the U.S. in recent years – especially this summer – with disparate impacts on underserved neighborhoods. According to our Tree Equity Score analysis of 2,600 urban areas in the United States, communities of color on average have 38 percent less tree cover and are over 10°F hotter than white communities, and lower income neighborhoods have 28 percent less cover and are almost 7°F hotter than wealthier ones. American Forests’ goals for Tree Equity are to reach 100 cities by 2030, provide 10,000 employment opportunities in forestry, and create heat-resilient communities. 

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the largest climate investment in history, committed $1.5 billion toward community-based organizations, tribes, municipal and state governments, nonprofit organizations, universities and other entities to transform communities through investments in Tree Equity. To date, the Forest Service has awarded more than $1.3 billion of this funding. Initial seed funding for American Forests’ Tree Equity Catalyst Fund was generously provided by The JPB Foundation.  

“It’s a new era for urban forestry in America – one where cities and their partners will finally have equitable and robust access to the resources and technical assistance they need to plant trees and care for their existing tree canopy in ways that will remedy the systemic inequity of tree cover across our cities by income and race,” Daley said. “With so much at stake for health equity and community well-being, we’re grateful to leaders in Congress, the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Agriculture and the Biden-Harris administration for this world-leading investment in Tree Equity at a time when it’s needed more than ever.”