Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the 2016 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $900,000 in funding to four goal recipients who will demonstrate how healthy urban forests can increase public health benefits, improve development and redevelopment efforts, and contribute to urban food production

“Urban forests are integral to strong, vital and healthy communities, enriching the lives of the more than 80 percent of Americans who live in cities and towns,” said Vilsack. “The grants announced today will make important strides in innovative research and community projects that will help keep our urban forests valuable contributors to our daily lives.”

“As our urban communities grow and confront rapid development and climate change, urban trees will be more important than ever by providing rich habitats, capturing storm water and helping provide clean air and water,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “The grant recipients will help to improve the public’s health, well-being and create resilient ecosystems for present and future generations.”

The grant recipients, whose work will highlight the economic and social value of urban forests, are committing an additional $1.1 million to their projects bringing the total investment through this project to $2 million.

In the United States alone, urban trees store over 708 million tons of carbon, which is equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from about 500 million automobiles. Urban trees help further reduce emissions by lowering electricity demand for summer air conditioning and winter heating. Well-maintained urban forests can help address climate and extreme weather impacts by reducing storm water runoff, buffering high winds, controlling erosion and minimizing the impacts of drought. Urban forests also provide critical social and cultural benefits providing places for people to recreate and gather with their communities.

The U.S. Forest Service, together with many partners, plays a pivotal role in ensuring urban and community forests continue to provide their life enriching benefits. In partnership with state forestry agencies, the Forest Service helps over 7,000 communities to plan, manage and grow urban forests through the Urban and Community Forestry Program and the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council’s Ten Year Action Plan.

For more information on USDA’s support for urban agriculture and forestry, please visit www.usda.gov/documents/urban-agriculture-toolkit.pdf.

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