US launches $1bn tree-planting scheme to mitigate effects of climate crisis

Hundreds of communities around the US will share more than $1bn in federal money to help them plant and maintain trees under a federal program that is intended to reduce extreme heat, benefit health and improve access to nature.

The US agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, will announce the $1.13bn in funding for 385 projects at an event on Thursday morning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The tree planting efforts will be focused on marginalized areas in all 50 states as well as Washington DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and some tribal nations.

“We believe we can create more resilient communities in terms of the impacts of climate,” Vilsack told reporters in previewing his announcement. “We think we can mitigate extreme heat incidents and events in many of the cities.”

In announcing the grants in Cedar Rapids, Vilsack will spotlight the eastern Iowa city of 135,000 people that lost thousands of trees during an extreme windstorm during the summer of 2020. Cedar Rapids has made the restoration of its tree canopy a priority since that storm, called a derecho, and will receive $6m in funding through the new grants.

Other grant recipients include some of the nation’s largest cities, such as New York, Houston and Los Angeles, and much smaller communities, such as Tarpon Springs, Florida, and Hutchinson, Kansas.

Downed trees in Cedar Rapids following the derecho in August 2020.
Downed trees in Cedar Rapids following the derecho in August 2020. Photograph: Jack Kurtz/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock

Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, planned to join Vilsack at the Iowa event. She told reporters earlier that many communities have lacked access to nature and that all the tree grants would benefit marginalized and underrepresented communities.

“Everyone should have access to nature,” Mallory said. “Urban forests can really play a key role in ensuring both that access but also increasing the climate resilience of communities, helping reduce extreme heat and making communities more livable.”

The federal money comes from the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Guardian

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