CITY TREES are having their moment — especially on Capitol Hill. Their value in lowering utility costs, keeping people healthy, and so much more is generating bipartisan support for federal legislation that will make cities nationwide greener.
Current federal funding, for example, includes the largest ever allocation for creating comprehensive urban forestry plans, as well as planting and caring for trees in cities. There is $32 million, representing a $2.5 million increase over last year, for the United States Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.
Complimenting this funding increase is bipartisan legislation to help homeowners plant trees to reduce residential utility costs and flood risks, as well as mitigate other negative impacts associated with climate change. The Residential Energy and Economic Savings (TREES) Act will, if passed, create a federal program that will award grants to utility companies so they can partner with local tree planting organizations to provide free or reduced trees to homeowners. Money also will be available to take care of the trees after they are planted. Healthy trees reduce utility costs — nearly $4.7 billion in electricity and $3.1 billion in heating use nationwide annually — by shading buildings and blocking strong winds. The shade also helps keep people cool. That’s important, given that a 10-fold increase in heat-related deaths is expected in the eastern U.S. by 2050. Last, trees act like a sponge, absorbing water that could otherwise flood buildings.