Tree canopy
A tree canopy in San Diego. Image from Urban Forestry Program 5-year plan

San Diego has been awarded $10 million from the federal government for planting trees in communities throughout the city as part of an ongoing effort to grow its urban forest, it was announced Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service awarded the funds, part of $1 billion distributed to cities nationally to plant and maintain trees and aid in combating heat and climate change, a statement from the agency reads.

“We are honored to be selected for this generous grant,” City Transportation Director Bethany Bezak said. “This was a highly competitive process, and we plan to use these funds to beautify the city and improve the quality of life for all San Diegans.”

The Forest Service selected 385 grant proposals from all 50 states to fund projects. San Diego’s funding will be used for the city’s Ready, Set, Grow San Diego program.

Officials plan to conduct outreach to the public for planning and participation in the project. Grant-funded activities will include planting and preserving trees through well expansions and removal of tree grates.

“We are thrilled to receive this funding which will improve San Diego’s urban forest in our city’s historically underserved communities with new trees and expansion in growing space around our existing trees,” said Brian Widener, the city’s forester. “Trees provide shade, ecosystem services and a host of other benefits to make a greener and more livable San Diego.”

Widener said thousands of trees will be planted thanks to the federal funding. Officials say a greater urban canopy cools city streets, improves air quality and has links to improved health outcomes.

“This is great news for the city’s climate equity goals,” said Shelby Busó, the city’s chief sustainability officer. “Our Climate Action Plan aims to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“While we all know that trees are a valuable mitigation measure, they are also integral to achieving additional core benefits such as cleaner air and improved public health outcomes, especially in our communities of concern,” she said.

–City News Service