A nonprofit that has spent decades planting trees in Detroit won a “historic” $10 million federal grant that will energize its plans to expand the city’s urban canopy with tens of thousands of new trees.
“The organization has never received anything near this, in terms of support, for the work that we do,” Greening of Detroit President Lionel Bradford said. “We’re ecstatic, elated, and I know it’s going to really benefit the city of Detroit.”
The Greening of Detroit received $9.7 million award from the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forest Program. It was the largest grant award announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In total, 11 Michigan groups will receive $33 million for urban forestry programs.
Urban trees improve local air quality and help mitigate the effects of climate change by providing shade during heatwaves, soaking up water during storms. The grants are targeted toward communities that are marginalized, underserved and lack access to trees and nature, the USDA said in a news release.
“Through these grants, we are supporting local partners and organizations doing critical work that directly impacts and improves our lives,” Gina Owens, a U.S. Forest Service forester, said in a statement. “An increased tree canopy has countless benefits for our cities and our well-being. Trees improve air quality, reduce stress, encourage safety, and create spaces to recreate and gather.”
Other Michigan grant winners include:
- The City of Detroit, which received $3 million for its tree canopy initiative.
- The City of Hamtramck, which received $1 million for its environmental urban forestry plan.
- The City of Pontiac, which received $1 million for its urban forestry program.
- The City of Sterling Heights, which received $500,000 for its urban reforestation initiative.
- Genessee Soil and Water Conservation District, which received $5 million for its Vibrant Canopy, Vital Community project in Metro Flint.
- The City of Ann Arbor, which received $1 million for a tree canopy study.
- The City of Lansing, which received $5 million for its urban and community forestry program.
- Friends of Grand Rapids parks, which received $5 million for a “forest justice” initiative in greater Grand Rapids.
- The City of Kalamazoo, which received $1 million for “Growing a Greener Kalamazoo.”
- The City of Jackson, which received $757,275 for its urban reforestation program.
The Forest Service also will put $7.5 million toward Michigan’s Urban and Community Forest grant program, which helps communities, nonprofits, schools and volunteer groups pay for urban forestry needs.
The Greening of Detroit will put the funding, which it will receive in $2 million increments over five years, into capacity building for its ongoing initiatives including tree plantings, education, job training and more. The nonprofit was founded in 1989 and typically fundraises about $4 million per year, Bradford said.
The nonprofit joined the city of Detroit, American Forests and other organizations to launch the Tree Equity Partnership last year, together aiming to plant 75,000 trees over five years.
City trees provide a variety of benefits for residents, including pollution reduction, making neighborhoods more beautiful and soaking up water during storms, Bradford said.
“There’s so much value,” he said. “We all know the environmental benefits in terms of clean air, clean water, storm water reduction… Aesthetics is of course important, but there’s an economic value to that too.”
Hamtramck’s $1 million grant award will go a long way toward replacing the trees the city has lost along its roadways, city manager Max Garbarino said.
The city plans to plant 1,500 trees over five years and hire someone to look after them. He said the trees will help soak up storm water and prevent flooding, provide habitat for birds and critters and make neighborhoods feel more peaceful.
Where exactly will the trees go?
“Everywhere,” Garbarino said.
Hamtramck, a two-square-mile Detroit enclave, is “really down a lot of trees” because of disease, storms and age, Garbarino said.
“We’ve got a lot of barren area,” Garbarino said. “This is going to give Hamtramck a shot in the arm.”