California is among the states that will share in more than $1 billion in federal funding to help plant trees in an effort to mitigate extreme heat and combat climate change, officials announced last week.
The Golden State will receive about $103 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, which will go toward 43 grant recipients across Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and other California communities for tree planting and maintenance, urban canopy improvements and other green efforts.
The funding comes from President Joe Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act and marks the act’s largest investment to date in urban and community forests, officials said. In all, 385 grant proposals in all 50 states were selected to receive funds, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“Unfortunately, the difficulties and challenges we’ve seen with weather are not going to go away,” Vilsack told reporters recently. “We’re going to continue to be challenged by Mother Nature, so we want to make sure that our communities are more resilient and more capable of withstanding what Mother Nature may have in store.”
The investment comes as the planet continues to swelter under record-breaking heat. June, July and August all set monthly temperature records, while the three-month period as a whole was deemed Earth’s warmest on record.
Research has found that areas with more pavement and fewer trees can be 10 degrees warmer because of the so-called “urban heat island effect.” But even as experts warn that extreme heat is among the deadliest effects of climate change — killing more people each year than hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather hazards — poor neighborhoods and communities of color continue to bear the brunt of its effects.
That includes Los Angeles County, where tree canopy and extreme heat are unevenly distributed in such areas, including the eastern and southern parts of the county as well as the San Fernando Valley, a 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation found.
“If we’re going to have an impact on the landscape, we need to be planting trees in the most vulnerable areas,” said Marcos Trinidad, senior director of forestry with TreePeople, an environmental advocacy group in Los Angeles.
TreePeople is among the federal grant recipients and will receive $8 million for tree planting and maintenance, community engagement and workforce development in Southern California.
“What we proposed was to be able to plant trees where they’re needed the most, and that was from the northeast Valley all the way to the Inland Empire,” Trinidad said. “So we’ve expanded our reach, just in being able to identify the areas that need trees the most, but also the communities that are suffering the impacts — not just from global warming, but everything that goes into creating a healthy community.”
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