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USDA Forest Service makes historic investments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today the USDA Forest Service is investing more than $1 billion in nearly 400 grant awards nationwide to increase access to trees and the social, health, and economic benefits they provide.

Of the total funding, the Forest Service awarded over $42 million dollars to community-based organizations, tribes, municipal and state governments, non-profit partners, universities, and other eligible entities across Arizona and New Mexico. These investments will plant and maintain trees in disadvantaged urban communities, tackle the climate crisis, and support jobs and workforce development.

The funding, made possible by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, is part of a historic $1.5 billion investment in the Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. The funding supports local communities and the organizations that serve them as they work to increase tree cover in disadvantaged spaces and boost equitable access to nature.

“These investments arrive as cities across the country experience record-breaking heatwaves that have grave impacts on public health, energy consumption, and overall well-being,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are supporting communities in becoming more resilient to climate change and combatting extreme heat with the cooling effects of increased urban tree canopy, while also supporting employment opportunities and professional training that will strengthen local economies.”

Over the Southwestern Region, Arizona will receive $22.19 million, and New Mexico will receive $20.5 million in grant awards.

“From community-prioritized tree programs and decreasing temperatures in heat-vulnerable communities in Arizona, to establishing native and edible community forests, and increasing access to existing green spaces in New Mexico this funding will help improve environmental and economic resilience, develop a strong workforce, and aid disadvantaged communities most affected by the changing climate,” said Southwestern Regional Forester Michiko Martin. “These investments go beyond planting trees. The grants will forge new partnerships and strengthen existing relationships that will lift our communities, especially where tree canopy is thin and the need is vast.”

The Urban and Community Forestry Program supports the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and lack access to trees and nature.

All grant funding will flow to disadvantaged communities thanks to our applicant tool, which used the White House Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) to identify eligible communities. CEJST is a geospatial mapping tool that identifies communities faced with significant burdens, such as climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, and workforce development.

The Forest Service supports vibrant and healthy urban communities through supporting healthy urban forests. More information about the funded proposals, as well as announcements about the grant program, is available on the Forest Service website.

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