USDA Awards New Jersey $22.8M for Urban Forestry and Green Space Enhancement

USDA urban tree planting grant to New Jersey
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NEWARK, N.J. – New Jersey is set to receive a $22.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. This funding is part of a broader initiative to promote tree planting and maintenance in urban areas across the nation.

Ten proposals from New Jersey have been selected out of a total of 385 by the Forest Service. These proposals aim to enhance equitable access to green spaces and the numerous benefits they offer, such as improved air quality, temperature regulation, and public health and safety.

The grant is a segment of a larger $1 billion competitive grant program announced earlier this year. This program is backed by the Inflation Reduction Act, which allocated $1.5 billion to the Urban and Community Forestry Program. The goal is to address climate change effects, promote environmental justice, and ensure all communities have access to nature.

Senator Cory Booker emphasized the importance of this grant in building resilient communities and addressing environmental challenges. Similarly, Senator Bob Menendez highlighted the significance of providing all New Jersey communities, especially underserved ones, with access to clean air and green spaces.

This funding is part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which has invested $1.5 billion in the USDA’s Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program. Additionally, the USDA Forest Service will provide up to $250 million to states and territories to support local urban community projects.

The Urban and Community Forestry Program remains the sole federal program dedicated to expanding urban forest resources. The recent grant allocation is the largest single investment from the Inflation Reduction Act to this program.

The grant was available to various entities, including community organizations, state governments, and universities. The Forest Service received a total of 842 applications, requesting $6.4 billion, indicating a nationwide urgency for urban tree initiatives.

Research indicates that community trees offer numerous benefits, including improved health, temperature regulation, and economic opportunities. The funding aims to support projects that enhance tree cover in disadvantaged areas, ensuring equitable access to nature’s benefits.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool was used to identify disadvantaged communities. This tool assesses various burdens, including climate, health, and housing challenges.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, both emphasized the importance of this funding in addressing climate challenges and promoting community well-being.

The grant distribution in New Jersey includes funds for various projects, such as hiring urban arborists, tree planting in different cities, and developing maintenance and educational programs.