United States Department of Agriculture Awards Over $1 Billion to Support Urban Forestry Programs

by Matthew Brahms, Transportation Planner

Photo: G. Myers, DVRPC

June 20, 2024

Awards to the DVRPC region included $12 million to Philadelphia in support of the Philly Tree Plan, and $850,000 each to Camden and Trenton to fund tree planting, maintenance, and planning. Camden received an additional $3 million in support of its City Tree Planting Initiative.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently awarded over $1 billion as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program to urban forestry initiatives across the country, including several in the DVRPC region. The 385 awardees from all 50 states were chosen with an emphasis on advancing environmental equity in disadvantaged communities by promoting tree cover that helps cities and towns become more resilient to extreme heat and other effects of climate change. 

The City of Philadelphia received $12 million to help implement the Philly Tree Plan, a 10-year strategic plan published in 2023. A major goal of the Tree Plan is to have at least 30 percent tree cover in every neighborhood. Today, 20 percent of Philadelphia is covered by tree canopy, but the unequal distribution of trees means some neighborhoods have under 5 percent tree cover while others have 45 percent or more. The $12 million from the federal government will go a long way to further the plan’s implementation which is currently allocated $2 million per year from the City’s budget.  

In New Jersey, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced its awards at an Arbor Day tree planting event hosted by the New Jersey Forest Service at Farnham Park in Camden. In total, $8.7 million was distributed to overburdened communities across the state. This includes Camden and Trenton, which were each awarded $850,000 from the state to fund tree planting and maintenance as well as planning. Additionally, Camden directly received $3 million for its initiative to “plant trees along major commercial and high-velocity roadways, install trees at in-development public housing complexes prior to residents moving in, plant new and maintain existing trees within the Camden Business Improvement District, and plant trees at several in-development parks.”  

This round of federal funding, which was made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, comes amidst increasing recognition of the numerous environmental and societal benefits of well-maintained trees in urban areas. Notably, trees help combat what is known as the heat island effect in which concentrations of built structures absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than the surrounding natural landscape causing more densely developed area to become hotter than their surroundings. Trees can also benefit their environs by improving neighborhood appeal, absorbing carbon dioxide, filtering particulate matter, and mitigating stormwater runoff. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Alert!, a monthly newsletter produced by DVRPC’s Department of Air Quality Planning. 

Environment, Climate & Energy

Air Quality Partnership
Annual Report
Connections 2050
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
Economic Development District