Pittsburgh’s tree canopy is set for a significant transformation with a $9 million grant from the USDA’s Forest Service. The funds aim to combat urban heat islands, support disadvantaged homeowners, and bolster the region’s overall tree coverage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has channeled a substantial amount from its Urban and Community Forestry program towards bolstering tree canopy across the nation, with Pittsburgh benefiting to the tune of $9 million over an upcoming five-year span.

Out of this generous funding, Pittsburgh city is set to use $1 million specifically to combat the rising urban heat island effect, a phenomenon where urban areas experience significantly warmer temperatures than their rural surroundings due to human activities. The remaining $8 million is earmarked for distribution among the Pittsburgh Canopy Alliance, a coalition committed to combating the declining tree canopy in Allegheny County. Taking the lead in this endeavor is Tree Pittsburgh, which will collaborate with eight other partner organizations: Allegheny Goat Scape, Allegheny County Conservation District, Allegheny Land Trust, Friends of the Riverfront, Landforce, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, UrbanKind Institute, and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Formed in 2020, the Pittsburgh Canopy Alliance is the brainchild of a group of organizations united in their mission to augment the region's livability. Their shared vision made them a strong contender when the Forestry Service introduced its funding initiative. Danielle Crumrine, the executive director of Tree Pittsburgh, voiced her organization's readiness and enthusiasm to participate. Though the Alliance had originally sought $13 million in support, Crumrine expressed immense gratitude for the $8 million awarded, emphasizing the rarity and significance of such grants.

“Everybody loves to fund tree planting,” Crumrine said, “but to get the money to hire a professional tree care company, to remove a hazardous tree or prune a mature tree — it's just not the typical grant.”

Tree Pittsburgh will spend $1.1 million each year on professional tree care. She’s also excited that an additional $100,000 a year will be set aside for a low-income homeowner tree care fund.

Delving deeper into the allocation of these funds, Crumrine shared that an annual amount of $1.1 million would be utilized for professional tree care. She highlighted a particular initiative that she had long wished to materialize: the establishment of a low-income homeowner tree care fund, which would receive $100,000 yearly. This fund aims to assist homeowners, especially those on limited incomes like senior citizens, in managing and maintaining older trees that might otherwise pose risks due to their size and age.

Further emphasizing the community-centric focus of this project, Tree Pittsburgh has an ambitious goal to distribute 10,000 trees to the residents of Allegheny County within the next half-decade. Notably, Crumrine stressed that every dollar from the grant is intended for Justice40 areas. These are areas that have been historically disadvantaged and underserved. The grant will serve as a foundation for providing technical support to municipal officers, enabling them to enact tree-protection ordinances and establish shade tree commissions.

To ensure that the communities remain engaged and informed about these developments, the Allegheny County Conservation District, along with the UrbanKind Institute, will spearhead outreach initiatives, according to 90.5 WESA. The entire community is poised to come together in the coming months, with an event slated to commemorate and celebrate this monumental grant.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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