LOCALIZE IT: Money Flows to US Communities in Need of Trees

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The planting of trees in American cities is not a new phenomenon. In 1858, the first trees were planted at what is now Central Park in New York City. More than 20,000 trees cover the 843 acres of Central Park, providing a refuge from the urban environment for more than 42 millions visitors each year.

Many people enjoy the cool shade and beauty of urban trees. However, the cost to plant and maintain trees in American cities is often covered by nonprofits, state and local governments. In recent years, the federal budget has included approximately $36 million per year for the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program. This money is supposed to be spread across all 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories.

All that has changed. The federal government now funds tree-planting projects and tree-care in large amounts. Inflation Reduction Act of President Joe Biden makes an historic $1.5 billion in urban forestry. Projects that benefit underserved areas are given priority. This funding is in addition to the funding for tree projects included in Biden's Infrastructure Law and the COVID-19 Relief Legislation known as the American Rescue Plan.

The tree advocates believe that this massive investment will be a game changer for urban communities who suffer from dirty air, dangerously hot temperatures and other challenges due to the lack of a leafy canopy above.

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Reporters should ask state and local officials, as well as community groups, if they plan to or have applied for funding included in the federal Inflation Reduction Act or COVID-19 Relief funds. How will they spend the money? What are the unique ideas being proposed?

How equal is the canopy of trees in a particular city, region or state? The advocacy group American Forests created a search tool that allows users to check the equity of trees in a particular city or town. The score is calculated based on a number of metrics including the existing tree canopy, the property density, income and employment, surface temperatures, race, age, health, and other factors. A community with a score of 100 has achieved tree equity.

Have cities done anything to alleviate the unhealthy conditions, particularly in poor areas, in areas with a lot of paved roads and few trees? Are there any plans to expand these projects with the federal funding?

Is heat-related illness a problem in a particular city, state, or region? How many hospitalizations occurred? How many hospitalizations? How many deaths?

Are there shortages of arborists or other tree care workers within a specific city, region or state? Is there a plan to create new programs to train workers, perhaps funded by federal grants?

Are there trees available in a certain area that are not enough? Is there a plan to work with the growers in order to provide tree-planting efforts specific varieties of trees that are more resistant to climate change challenges such as drought and pests.

What has the impact of newly planted trees on neighborhoods been? These efforts have they failed or been successful? Do you have any human interest stories that show local residents planting trees to improve their community?


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have created an online query to allow visitors to find local statistics on heat-related illnesses (HRIs) and deaths. Select heat and heat-related illnesses under the 'content area'. Under'select indicators', choose from options like the number of emergency department visit, mortality due to HRI or historical temperatures. Choose a "measure" such as the number of deaths from HRI in a given year. Fourth, select a "geographic type" such as state.

The search engine of American Forests provides a "tree equity score" for a community. The score is based on a number of factors, including the canopy and race.

Visit this website for more information on how to apply for grants worth $1.5 billion that will support urban tree planting, urban forest planning and management, and for more information about the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program.

Researchers from the U.S. Forest Service have studied how well city tree canopies perform in the United States.

The National Institutes of Health have compiled a comprehensive review of the literature available on the health effects of urban trees.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture examined the role that urban forests played in mitigating climate change.


Trees have many benefits. The benefits of trees are many.

According to The Nature Conservancy, trees that remove particulate material are seen as an effective way to treat health problems, such as asthma and heart disease. This is especially true in low-income neighborhoods near highways and industrial plants.

The global extreme heat has tripled, and it now affects one quarter of the population. Extreme heat can lead to illness or even death.

Localize It is a feature that The Associated Press produces for its customers. Katie Oyan can be contacted at EMAIL with any questions.