New Bill Would Create Grant Program to Combat Heat in Cities

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On Thursday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, introduced the Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act, legislation to create a grant program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would provide funding to local governments and nonprofit organizations for heat mitigation efforts.

“As climate change worsens, so will the health and safety risks of excess heat and rising surface temperatures,” said Brown. “It’s crucial that we provide communities with the resources needed to invest in mitigation efforts, including planting and maintaining trees. All communities need and deserve resources so that they can protect families from the risks of excess heat.”

Excess heat is caused by several factors, including lower tree coverage, high building density, and prevalence of heat-absorbing surfaces like sidewalks and roadways. In addition to being a public health threat, excess urban heat leads to increased air and water pollution as well as higher roadway maintenance, energy, and healthcare costs

The Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act allows entities such as local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, Tribal governments, and nonprofits to apply for funding to implement efforts to help offset the effects of excess urban heat, such as cool pavements, cool roofs, tree planting and maintenance, green roofs, bus stop covers, cooling centers, and local heat mitigation education efforts. The bill text can be found here.

“The Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act will deliver much-needed financial support from HUD to communities and organizations struggling to afford tree plantings and maintenance, especially of native tree species, among other solutions available today to mitigate the challenge of urban heat especially in the face of climate change,” said Joel Alpern, Interim co-President & CEO of Holden Forests and Gardens.

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“As we all continue to feel the impacts of changing climate, this measure will help communities throughout Ohio and across the nation address increased urban heat,” wrote David Wilson, President of the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

“Extreme heat is devastating our most disadvantaged communities, which are also least likely to have adequate tree canopy. This urgently-needed legislation will help bring relief by coupling tree planting with other green infrastructure, empowering local decision-making while advancing Tree Equity to make enduring changes for our most vulnerable populations,” said Joel Pannell, Vice President of Urban Forest Policy for American Foresters.

“We are proud to participate in a program that encourages communities to enhance their green spaces through tree plantings and tree maintenance. Research has proven that interaction with green space, gardens, parks and natural areas improve health and well-being,” said Pat Covey, Chairman, President, and CEO at the Davey Tree Expert Company. “At Davey, we know that in order to maximize those benefits, we need trees and natural landscapes to be properly maintained so they can reach their full potential.”

The legislation is endorsed by the Holden Arboretum, the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Foresters, and the Davey Tree Expert Company.

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