Brown Introducing Legislation to Plant More Trees, Reduce Racial Disparities Where Trees Are Located
WASHINGTON, DC – April 27, 2022 – In advance of Arbor Day on Friday, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call to discuss his legislative efforts to plant more trees, with a focus on underserved neighborhoods, and fight the racial disparities in the urban tree canopy.
“Trees are vital to our communities. Having more trees in your neighborhood improves air quality, supports mental and physical health, lowers energy costs, and even helps manage stormwater and prevent flooding,” said Brown. “The cleaner air and lower utility bills that comes with trees shouldn’t be an asset just for the wealthy and the privileged. Every Ohio child should be able to know the joy of climbing a tree, or sitting in the shade with a good book.”
A healthy and well-maintained urban forest can provide many benefits to communities, including supporting physical and mental health, improving air quality, lowering energy costs, and managing stormwater.
Urbanized neighborhoods where most residents are people of color have 33 percent less tree canopy on average than majority-white neighborhoods, and neighborhoods where most residents are low-income have 41 percent less tree cover than communities with high-income residents. Brown is introducing legislation to fight these disparities and create more urban forests.
Brown was joined on the call by Joel Pannell, the Vice President for Urban Forest Policy for American Forests, and Elizabeth Grace, the Director of Urban Fundraising at Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Ohio’s largest land trust.
“Cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. can boast a healthy urban tree canopy coverage of more than 30 percent. But Cleveland’s tree canopy offers only 18 percent coverage,” said Elizabeth Grace, Director of Urban Fundraising at Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Ohio’s largest land trust. “A healthy tree canopy is critical to healthy and prosperous communities. To restore Cleveland’s healthy tree canopy and meet our goals, we need to plant and maintain nearly 30,000 each year for the next 20 years. We applaud Senator Brown for leading efforts that support urban tree plantings and help reforest the Forest City.”
“Senator Brown’s Neighborhood Trees Act of 2022 will prioritize investment in urban tree canopy, providing climate, health and economic benefits through this critical, life-saving infrastructure,” said American Forests Vice President of Urban Forest Policy Joel Pannell. “Our nation’s historically-underserved communities are suffering most from the impacts of climate change and desperately need solutions that generate economic opportunity. American Forests applauds Senator Brown for helping to bring climate, health, economic and tree equity to our cities and our neighborhoods by expanding our urban tree canopy.”
Brown will introduce the Neighborhood Trees Act of 2022 this week. It would legislation would create the Neighborhood Trees Act Fund – allocating $100 million for fiscal year 2023, $200 million for fiscal year 2024, $400 million for fiscal year 2025, $600 million for fiscal year 2026 and $700 million for fiscal year 2027. The Secretary of Agriculture would be able to award this funding to plant trees – giving priority for the funds to those who prioritize tree planting in low-income communities or communities with lower tree canopy; have a higher maximum daytime summer temperature compared to surrounding communities; or are historically-redlined neighborhoods.
The legislation has been endorsed by American Forests, the National Wildlife Federation, the Davey Tree Expert Company, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the Cleveland Tree Coalition, the Trust for Public Land, Groundworks USA and the Sierra Club.
“Urban tree canopy is essential for building healthy communities and for taking on the damaging effects of the climate crisis. Planting trees in urban communities helps keep communities cool, healthy, and resilient to extreme weather, while providing the carbon-storing capacity we need to stop the worst effects of climate change,” said Kirin Kennedy, Sierra Club’s Director for People and Nature Policy. “The Neighborhood Trees Act of 2022 will help make these critical investments and provide specific benefits to the communities most threatened by these harmful effects.”