The US Government is stepping up efforts to become a global leader in afforestation after the Biden Administration committed another US $1.1 billion to plant more trees.
Announced by the US Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, the federal program, which will target 385 projects across the US, is intended to “reduce extreme heat, benefit health and improve access to nature.”
Wood Central understands that the funding will help urban areas, which scientists claim suffer from the ‘urban heat island effect.’
It occurs when temperatures rise due to heat trapped and radiated by impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt.
In late 2021, Wood Central Southeast Asia Reporter Ken Hickson spoke to Associate Professor Winston Chow, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contributor, about the urban heat effect and its importance for mitigating climate change.
According to Secretary Vilsack, the program will focus on marginalised areas in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and some tribal nations.
“We believe we can create more resilient communities in terms of the impacts of climate,” Secretary Vilsack told reporters.
“We can mitigate extreme heat incidents and events in many cities.”
In addition, Wood Central reports the USDA’s Forest Service has allocated US $250 million to most state and territory forest agencies to benefit urban tree canopies and access to nature.
Both initiatives, joining new programs for carbon measurement and small-acre carbon forestry, are part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Secretary Vilsack was in the Cedar Rapids in eastern Iowa for the announcement. The town of 135,000 lost thousands of trees during an extreme windstorm in the summer of 2020.
“What struck me was how comprehensive and excited and passionate people are for this program in Cedar Rapids,” Vilsack said to those gathered for the announcement.
“I certainly appreciate the fact that a good part of the resources is going to be focused initially on those areas that in the past may not even have had the benefit of trees, or if they did, they were fairly scarce.”
According to the Secretary, Cedar Rapids has prioritised the restoration of its tree canopy since that storm, called a derecho, and will receive $6 million in funding through the new grants.
Other grant recipients include some of the US’s largest capitals, including New York, Houston and Los Angeles, and much smaller communities, such as Tarpon Springs, Florida, and Hutchinson, Kansas.
Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, joined Secretary Vilsack in Iowa for the announcement.
Ms Mallory told reporters that many communities have lacked access to nature and that all the tree grants would benefit marginalised and underrepresented communities.
“Everyone should have access to nature,” Mallory said. “Urban forests can play a key role in ensuring both that access and increasing the climate resilience of communities, helping reduce extreme heat and making communities more livable.”
Bipartisan Boost: GOP and Democrats are one on tree-planting
Afforestation now has strong bipartisan support, with the House Republicans supporting tree planting and carbon offsets as it pivots on climate change.
“We need to manage our forests better so our environment can be stronger,” McCarthy said.
Both parties are now strong supporters of the one trillion tree pledge, which in 2019 calculated that new trees could suck up 750 billion tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide over the coming decades.
According to the researchers, “That is about as much carbon pollution as humans have spewed in the past 25 years.”
“This is by far — by thousands of times — the cheapest climate change solution” and the most effective, said study co-author Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
The report identified Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China as having the most room for new trees.
President Biden has previously set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by at least 50% from 2005 levels by 2030 and has said that agriculture and forestry play a crucial role in achieving this.