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California receives $100 million to plant trees and beat the heat

California is among states that will share more than $1 billion in federal funding to help plant trees to mitigate extreme heat and combat climate change, officials announced last week.

The Golden State will receive approximately $103 million in Forest Service grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will be disbursed to 43 grant recipients in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and other California communities for planting and l tree maintenance, improvement of the urban canopy and others. green efforts.

The funding comes from President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act and is the law’s largest investment to date in urban and community forests, officials said. A total of 385 grant proposals across all 50 states were selected to receive funds, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“Unfortunately, the weather-related difficulties and challenges are not going to go away,” Vilsack told reporters recently. “We are going to continue to be challenged by Mother Nature, which is why we want to make sure our communities are more resilient and more able to withstand what Mother Nature may throw at us.”

This investment comes as the planet continues to suffer from record heat. June, July and August all set monthly temperature records, while the three-month period as a whole was considered the hottest ever recorded on Earth.

Research has shown that areas with more sidewalks and fewer trees can be 10 degrees warmer due to what’s called the “urban heat island effect.” But even as experts warn that extreme heat is one of the deadliest effects of climate change – killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather hazards – poor neighborhoods and communities of color continue to suffer. bear the brunt of its effects.

This includes Los Angeles County, where tree cover and extreme heat are unevenly distributed across these areas, including the eastern and southern parts of the county as well as the San Fernando Valley, according to a 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation.

“If we want to have an impact on the landscape, we need to plant trees in the most vulnerable areas,” said Marcos Trinidad, senior forestry director at TreePeople, an environmental advocacy group in Los Angeles.

TreePeople is among the federal grant recipients and will receive $8 million for tree planting and care, community engagement and workforce development in Southern California.

“What we proposed was to be able to plant trees where they are most needed, which is from the northeast valley to the Inland Empire,” Trinidad said. “So we’ve expanded our reach, just by being able to identify the areas that need trees the most, but also the communities that are suffering from the impacts, not just of global warming, but of anything that contributes to creating a healthy community.

The largest amount awarded in California was $12 million to San Francisco’s Office of Public Works Urban Forestry, which seeks to plant and establish “thousands of street trees in low-canopy communities,” according to the description of his project. The City of San Diego will receive $10 million to conduct community outreach, plant and preserve trees, and promote tree equity, among other goals.

“This grant will help more cities and towns plant and maintain trees, which in turn will filter pollution, reduce energy use, lower temperatures and give more Californians access to green spaces in their communities,” read a statement from US Senator Dianne. Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the program.

Other beneficiaries include Cal State Northridge, which will spend $5 million to plant trees in low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The university will also collaborate with indigenous organizations to establish community tribal nurseries and plant culturally significant native trees, according to its project description.

Los Angeles will also benefit from an $8 million public works grant from Los Angeles County to “address the urban tree cover deficit within disadvantaged communities in unincorporated Los Angeles County,” and a $5 million grant to the Los Angeles Housing Authority to conduct a tree inventory. , establish an urban food forest and mitigate the urban heat island effect as part of its Greening Watts program.

The city’s Office of Sanitation will receive $3 million to plant 2,500 street trees, create 2,300 new tree wells and provide tree watering during the tree establishment period, according to the project description . (A complete list of California grant recipients is available here.)

TreePeople’s Trinidad said the federal government’s $1 billion investment signals a much-needed shift in “how we plan around our urban forest and how we look at that as infrastructure.” This funding comes at a crucial time when millions of trees are disappearing due to drought, wildfires, human development and lack of tree care, he said.

However, Los Angeles has a poor record on tree planting and care and came under scrutiny earlier this year due to a city proposal to remove more than 12,000 trees mature areas as part of a sidewalk redevelopment project. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge blocked the project after outcry from tree advocates.

Trinidad said urban forestry is often among the first sectors hit by budget cuts and other challenges in cities, and can be an “uphill battle” for resources and other needs.

But he was optimistic that Los Angeles would meet its goals and noted that planting trees can help create jobs in addition to benefits such as shade, oxygen and relief from the heat. Placing trees in the right location, selecting drought-tolerant trees, and providing ongoing tree maintenance will also make a difference.

“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I think we need to prioritize urban forestry from a different angle – a bigger angle – and then we can start looking at this like it’s going to save our lives one day. »

The Forest Service received 842 applications requesting a total of $6.4 billion in funding, the agency said — “an indication of the urgent nationwide need to plant and maintain more urban trees.”

Los Angeles Times

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