In a push towards environmental conservation, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled on April 12 that it plans to invest a staggering $1 billion on tree-planting and green space initiatives in the form of grants. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the move is anticipated to stimulate economic growth by increasing "equitable access to trees and green spaces in urban and community forests" while helping combat climate change.
The investment, which is part of President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, hopes to bolster the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, and aims to bring nature closer to where "84% of Americans live, work, and play."
But is there a way you can get in on the action? Here's everything you need to know.
What Does the Initiative Hope To Accomplish?
The primary aim of the investment is to increase the cover of trees in urban spaces, boost equitable access to nature, and build resilience against climate impacts like extreme heat and storm-induced flooding, the USDA's press release says. The decision to fund such an initiative came from a growing understanding of the crucial role urban forests play in mitigating the impact of climate change and improving public health.
Various groups stand to benefit from this funding. These include community-based organizations, Native American groups, state and municipal governments, nonprofit partners, universities, and other eligible entities working towards these green goals.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack underlined the importance of this investment by stating that the "program is yet another way that the Biden-Harris Administration is investing in America and ensuring that all people, regardless of ZIP code or neighborhood, have equitable access to the benefits that trees and green spaces provide." Urban forests are a critical resource for our country — offering cleaner air, safer water, and a more livable climate, said Vilsack, adding that these green spaces will "provide people with access to outdoor recreation," to foster better physical and mental health.
How You Can Get Involved
As more details of the historic funding are unveiled, many Americans may be wondering how they can participate in this significant effort towards a greener future. Eligible groups can currently apply for grants through the Forest Service website until June 1. Here are some other ways to get involved:
- Local Community-Based Organizations and Nonprofits: These groups often need volunteers to help with tree planting, park cleanup, and educational outreach about the importance of green spaces and environmental conservation.
- Neighborhood Associations or Community Development Organizations: Stay informed about local projects funded by this initiative and look for opportunities to volunteer, or learn how you can offer your services for special events for a fee.
- Universities and Research Institutions: If you're a student or researcher in environmental science or related fields, there could be opportunities to participate in studies funded by this initiative.
- Native American or Tribal Organizations: If you're part of a tribal, Native American, or indigenous community, look for projects enhancing the sustainability and biodiversity in your region.
- Local Municipalities and State Governments: Attend city council or county meetings to contribute to discussions and advocate for transparency on how these funds should be used and distributed within your community.
- "Adopt-a-Tree" Programs: Some cities might start programs where individuals and families can take responsibility for caring for a tree or group of trees. Through the program, participants have the opportunity to select a specific tree and symbolically adopt it as their own.
- Education and Advocacy: Even if you're not directly involved in planting, you can still contribute by educating others about the importance of urban forests, advocating for green spaces in your community, or cultivating an appreciation for these spaces by visiting them with family and friends.