THE UNITED STATES government’s support for planting trees in urban areas dates back to the 1930s. Its biggest contributions are funding research and running a program that awards urban forestry grants to states.
But far more is needed to create Tree Equity in urban areas, defined as cities and small towns that have at least 50,000 people. Simply put, Tree Equity is about ensuring every urban neighborhood has enough trees so that every person benefits from them. Based on our analysis, 100 million trees are needed by 2030 to create Tree Equity across America. And another 300 million are needed by 2050.
American Forests’ new Tree Equity policy platform lays out what the federal government can do to help reach those goals — everything from making sure there are enough and the right kind of trees grown in nurseries to training people how to take care of trees after they are planted.
The platform includes opportunities in the next two years to weave Tree Equity into appropriations and legislation. For example, American Forests will advocate for:
- An annual allocation of at least $200 million for the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, nearly seven times more than the current level of support for the program. The funding would be used primarily for technical assistance and to plant trees at the local level.
- Legislation, called the TREE Act, that would result in 300,000 more trees being planted every year in cities and towns across the country. The $50 million annual program, run by the U.S. Department of Energy, would allocate grants to local governments, utility companies and nonprofit organizations.
- A new program to support and catalyze the growing number of businesses, schools and local governments that are turning wood waste — such as wood from demolished homes and trees removed to widen roads — into furniture, building materials and other products.
America is awakening to the importance of trees in healing our environment and economy. The federal government is a key player in making that happen.