A $5 million program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to plant and maintain trees in Aurora neighbourhoods that have large immigrant populations and refugees kicked recently with a Chinkapin oak sapling planted outside of Moorhead Recreation Center.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small and a handful of state and local officials heaped dirt on the sapling to commemorate the more than $22 million in grants awarded to Colorado municipalities by the federal government to provide shade and improve quality of life in disadvantaged areas.
The funding will support reinvesting in Aurora’s Urban Canopy for Social Equity and Climate Resilience, a joint project between the city of Aurora’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space department and the Office of International and Immigrant Affairs.
Aurora is by far the most diverse city in Colorado with large communities of immigrants and refugees who reside in areas with the oldest trees and many open planting spaces. The program will definitely promote equity, enhance the urban forest, improve public health and foster environmental resilience.
Aurora is one of eight Colorado communities receiving grants.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman who attended the event alongside other council members said Aurora’s forestry team is responsible for close to 54,000 trees, nearly half of which are in poorer areas of the city.
The project will further support community development through continued partnership with Bridge House and TreeForce. Bridge House’s Ready to Work program assists people experiencing homelessness in transitioning to jobs and housing, and participants work alongside city staff for street tree maintenance. TreeForce aids people with criminal backgrounds or chronic unemployment in acquiring tree care skills for future employment opportunities.
More than 65 people gathered at the recreation center to hear Deputy Agriculture Secretary Xochitl Torres Small speak about the historic investment. “A canopy of trees can reduce the temperature by 11 to 19 degrees, she said at the event”.
The announcement reflects the goals of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda and his Bidenomics strategy, which is geared toward advancing climate resilience and environmental justice, generating economic opportunity and building a clean energy economy nationwide, according to USDA officials.
Studies show that communities with access to trees and green spaces have better health outcomes, less crime and lower average temperatures, according to the USDA. They can also draw other kinds of investments and benefit from new economic opportunities, the agency said.
Aurora applied for a $5 million grant to cover the cost of planting about 6,000 trees across the city by the end of 2028, said John Wesolowski, the city’s parks and forestry manager.