Washington state receives $42M to expand outdoor green spaces, 'urban forests'

With the intent of making the Evergreen State even greener, Washington will receive $42 million in federal grant funding aimed at raising public awareness and expanding development of outdoor green spaces and “urban forests” in cities, towns and suburbs.

The allocation is among $1.5 billion being disbursed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture for 385 projects in disadvantaged communities nationwide under the “Urban and Community Forestry” grants program.

“Trees make a difference,” the agencies say in an online announcement of the 2023 awards. “Studies show that communities with access to trees and green spaces are associated with improved health outcomes, reduced crime, lower average temperatures, and an influx of other kinds of investments and economic opportunities.”

Washington state is receiving $6 million in grant funding while another 14 individual recipients will share $36.4 million in “pass-through” monies for partnerships with institutions and organizations. They include Washington State University, American Forests, Arbor Day Foundation, Green Latinos, Groundwork USA, Hispanic Access Foundation, River Network, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, The Corps Network, The Student Conservation Association Inc., Trust for Public Land, and Urban Sustainability Directors Network.

The individual grant recipients and their funding amounts are: City of College Place ($730,413); City of Lynnwood ($1.3 million); City of Oak Harbor ($1.68 million); City of Port Townsend (two grants for $237,507 and $240,517); City of Seattle ($900,000); City of Seattle/Office of Sustainability and Environment ($12 million); City of Shoreline ($1 million); City of Spokane ($6 million); City of Tumwater ($334,588); City of Vancouver ($300,000); Snohomish Conservation District ($2.48 million); Snoqualmie Indian Tribe ($1.37 million); Spokane Conservation District ($6 million); and Washington State University ($1.77 million).

Collectively, their plans call for tree planting, restoration, and maintenance; community planning and engagement; student education programs; workforce development; and extreme heat reduction.

The Urban and Community Forestry project is part of USDA’s nationwide Justice40 Initiative that invests in partnerships to support disadvantaged communities experiencing low tree canopy and other environmentally related challenges.

Communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories and tribal nations are receiving funding covered by the initiative, part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Components of the act include clean energy production, climate mitigation, support for sustainable agriculture, and conservation-related investment programs.

“Today’s landmark funding from the U.S. Forest Service will increase urban access to nature, improve air quality, keep city streets cool during sweltering summers, tackle the climate crisis, and create safer, healthier communities in every corner of America,” said John Podesta, senior advisor to the president for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, in the online announcement.

“That makes a huge difference for the grandmother who doesn’t have air conditioning, or the kid who has asthma, or the parent who works outside for ten hours a day,” said Podesta. “This investment will create not just greener cities; it will create healthier and more equitable cities.”

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., echoed those comments in a news release Friday, saying, “Right now, too many people lack easy access to green spaces, so these dollars we secured in the Inflation Reduction Act are going to make a real difference: people want trees, shade, and green spaces in their neighborhoods.”

Murray said the grants mark USDA’s largest single investment under the Inflation Reduction Act to date and will improve 140 million acres of urban and community forest across the U.S.


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