The city of Atlanta, Decatur and several local nonprofits are set to receive millions of dollars to fund urban tree canopy protection efforts in the metro area and beyond, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced Thursday.
The funding is part of a set of grants worth more than $1 billion from President Joe Biden’s landmark climate and healthcare law, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The agency said the investment is the largest yet set aside by the IRA to protect and plant new trees in cities around the country.
The money arrives after Earth just experienced its hottest summer in at least 174 years, new federal data also released Thursday shows. Numerous studies, including some focused on Atlanta, have found trees are among the most effective defense mechanisms for urban areas against the heatwaves and downpours that are growing more intense as humans warm the planet.
John Podesta, President Biden’s senior advisor for clean energy innovation and implementation, said in a statement that the money would “increase urban access to nature, improve air quality, keep city streets cool during sweltering summers, tackle the climate crisis, and create safer, healthier communities in every corner of America.”
Here’s a breakdown of the funding Atlanta and others are receiving:
|City of Atlanta||$5 million|
|Trees Atlanta (nonprofit)||$10 million|
|Partnership for Southern Equity (nonprofit)||$2 million|
|City of Decatur||$100,000|
The city of Atlanta’s $5 million grant will be used to develop an “Urban Forest Master Plan,” according to a brief summary of the project released by the Forest Service. The plan will be focused on conducting comprehensive urban canopy assessments, restoring forested areas and maintaining trees, especially in lower-income neighborhoods.
Mayor Andre Dickens’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the grant award or elaborate on the city’s plans for using the money.
Last year, Atlanta City Council voted to establish a goal of reaching an average of 50% tree canopy coverage citywide.
The city’s last comprehensive canopy assessment, completed in 2018 by Georgia Tech senior research scientist Tony Giarrusso, found Atlanta had an average of 46.5% of its tree cover remaining. The city’s canopy has almost certainly shrunk more in the years since.
Several modest updates to the city’s tree ordinance went into effect earlier this year, but City Council has not passed more significant changes to the city’s tree removal and replacement rules, which many environmentalists have pushed for.
Trees Atlanta’s $10 million grant will be used to maintain the city’s canopy and develop “a sustainable, diverse nature-based workforce development program,” according to a description of the project posted by the Forest Service. The nonprofit did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans.
The Partnership for Southern Equity’s funding will support a tree planting and maintenance training program targeting urban, disadvantaged communities, a Forest Service summary said.
Local nonprofit Eco-Action, plans to train residents in the Proctor Creek, Intrenchment Creek, Flint River, North Utoy and Sweetwater Creek watersheds in stream and forest management. The city of Decatur, meanwhile, will develop a canopy management and resilience plan with the $100,000 it is receiving, the Forest Service said.
A note of disclosure
This coverage is supported by a partnership with 1Earth Fund, the Kendeda Fund and Journalism Funding Partners. You can learn more and support our climate reporting by donating at ajc.com/donate/climate/