Prove your humanity

This story comes from our partner, 90.5 WESA.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service awarded $1 billion across the country this year through the Urban and Community Forestry program to support disadvantaged communities experiencing low tree canopy. Pittsburgh will see $9 million distributed over the next five years.

The City of Pittsburgh will receive $1 million to mitigate urban heat islands. The other $8 million will be spread between Tree Pittsburgh, which is leading the effort, and eight partners in the Pittsburgh Canopy Alliance: Allegheny Goat Scape, Allegheny County Conservation District, Allegheny Land Trust, Friends of the Riverfront, Landforce, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, UrbanKind Institute, and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Allegheny County as a whole is slowly losing tree canopy. The Pittsburgh Canopy Alliance was established in 2020 to address that, as well as to convene diverse organizations that share a mission of improving livability in the region.

When the Forestry Service announced the Urban and Community Forestry funding opportunity earlier this year, executive director of Tree Pittsburgh Danielle Crumrine said the coalition was ready. The Pittsburgh Canopy Alliance asked for $13 million, and was awarded $8 million. Crumrine says these funds are hard to come by and the award is a huge win for Pittsburgh.

“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.

“This is something we’ve dreamt about for a while,” she said. “You know, imagine a senior citizen on a fixed income has been in their home for 50 years has a big old tree. That tree might really scare them because it’s really large and it needs work or it might need to be removed in some cases. But it’s really expensive to do this work and not everybody has that expendable income.”

Money will also be set aside for coalition partners like Allegheny GoatScape and Landforce which help maintain and prepare sites for planting, and Tree Pittsburgh plans to distribute 10,000 trees to Allegheny County residents over the course of the five years.

Crumrine says all of these initiatives will happen within disadvantaged communities.

“100% of this grant is for Justice40 areas. So this is going to give us the opportunity to provide technical assistance to those municipal officials, to help them create ordinances, to protect trees, and help them set up shade tree commissions. You know, really to help jumpstart a tree effort in areas where there just isn’t the extra money to put the time in to do that.”

Allegheny County Conservation District and UrbanKind will help with community outreach. An event to mark and celebrate the award is being planned for later this fall.