Going Green: Pennsylvania Steps Up to Support Trees in Underserved Communities

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams DunnCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

READING, PA — On Friday, Pennsylvania, officials of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) congregated in Berks County to discuss an exciting initiative. At the heart of this initiative is the power of trees – not only for the earth, but for communities too. The DCNR, represented by Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, unveiled a multifaceted grant system to plant trees in towns and cities across Pennsylvania that need it most.

The grants, funded by federal dollars, are a part of the Community Conservation Partnerships Program. A generous $4 million is up for grabs in a bid to maintain and improve Pennsylvania’s natural places. Projects of various natures can tap into these funds.

The driving force behind these new funds is Governor Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget proposal. The proposal places stewardship of Pennsylvania’s natural resources at the helm with trail building and the expansion of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps program.

“Trees keep neighborhoods cool during heat waves, prevent flooding during storms, and clean the air that kids breathe,” Secretary Dunn declared while visiting Schlegel Park. Discussing the advantages of tree-planting, Dunn reinforced that the grants would deliver benefits to communities often overlooked and underserved.

Mayor Eddie Morán of Reading also expressed his support for the plan. He acknowledged the crucial role trees play, calling them a “vital part” of Reading’s streets, parks, and landscapes. Morán thanked the DCNR for its dedication to community wellness and health.

The DCNR’s support doesn’t stop at just granting money. Its staff stands ready to answer queries, visit potential project sites, and help develop powerful grant applications. This assistance is a phone call away.

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There is more good news in store. Enter the Inflation Reduction Act, thanks to which Pennsylvania will receive $9.75 million from the U.S. Forest Service. This will ensure communities have fair access to trees and the benefits they bring.

State Senator Judy Schwank and Representative Manuel Guzman echoed support for the initiative. Schwank highlighted the positive impact of greener spaces on air quality, recreational opportunities, and biodiversity. Guzman underscored the importance of trees in enhancing quality of life and the well-being of future generations.

The DCNR has had success with previous grants supporting projects in Reading and Berks County. With a broad range of sustainable initiatives in their kitty, including pool feasibility studies and the installation of accessible play equipment and safe surfacing.

The deadline for grant applications is 4:00 PM on April 3rd via DCNR’s Grants Customer Service Portal.

Moreover, the DCNR is poised to work hand-in-hand with underserved communities that may struggle to apply for grants due to either lack of capacity or not meeting the minimum $50,000 project size. DCNR staff can help with questions, site visits, and competitive applications. Contact urban and community forestry experts at 717-787-2703 to begin.

The Shapiro Administration has set ambitious goals for trees and forests, which are fundamental in addressing climate change. The aim is to reduce current rates of forest loss by 5,000 acres per year, restore 5,000 acres of non-forest to forest by planting trees, and permanently conserve 15,000 acres of forest land vulnerable to development.

Interested Pennsylvanians can contribute to the cause by donating to the Keystone Tree Fund voluntary $3 check-off box on driver’s license and vehicle registration online applications. All these measures provide an enduring testament to the commitment and drive of Pennsylvanian leaders toward a greener future.

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