The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service awarded $1 billion to support disadvantaged communities experiencing low tree canopy. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the federal grants, administered through the Urban and Community Forestry program, for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. Territories and Tribal Nations. Pennsylvania received over $27 million for tree canopy and urban forestry programs, new apprenticeship programs, and urban orchards to provide fresh fruits to low-income communities. Adjacent to Bucks County, Allentown received $920,800, Easton received $1,000,000, and Philadelphia received $12,000,000 to implement the Philly Tree Plan.
According to Vilsack’s late-September announcement, the grant funds stem from “President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to advance environmental justice, generate economic opportunity, and build a clean energy economy nationwide. The grants are made possible by investments from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history and a core pillar of Bidenomics.” The grants were open to community-based organizations, Tribal, municipal, and state governments, non-profit partners, universities, and other eligible entities. The Forest Service received over 840 applications with over $6.4 billion in requests. The program “works to ensure the overall benefits of certain federal investments reach disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment.”
The City of Allentown Urban Forestry Program seeks to “tackle tree equity” and the City of Easton will fund the Easton Urban Forestry Equity Project. The neighboring cities will use funds to inventory existing street trees, prune or remove dangerous unhealthy trees, and plant hundreds more trees. As noted in the USDA’s announcement, “Studies show that trees in communities are associated with improved physical and mental health, [and] lower average temperatures during extreme heat.” More information about the funded proposals, as well as announcements about the grant program, is available on the Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage.