Springfield Mayor Misty Buscher announced that the City of Springfield was successful in winning a federal grant of $889,027 from the U.S. Forest Service to plant 1,000 trees and to hire a community outreach arborist and three student worker arborists during the summer months over a five-year period. The grant is unique in that no city-matching funds are required, as is customary in such awards. Mayor Buscher said the tree-planting funds and money for outreach staff are particularly important to the City after several hundred trees were damaged by storms earlier this year.
As outlined in the grant program, the funds will be used to plant 1,000 trees in marginalized neighborhoods that have been identified as lacking sufficient tree canopy in recent tree inventories undertaken by the City. Areas without adequate tree coverage are more likely to incur dangerously hot summer temperatures, are more likely to experience flooding during storms, and are less successful in filtering air pollution, which can contribute to higher asthma rates among residents.
The grant will also fund an outreach arborist/grant monitor for five years, who will work with Springfield residents and neighborhood associations to support tree planting and maintenance activities. Grant funds are also available to pay for three arborist student workers for summer employment over the grant’s five years.
City officials say the importance of trees in urban environments cannot be overstated in regard to cleaning the air, sequestering storm waters, and moderating average temperatures. With these objectives in mind, the City of Springfield sought federal monies to plant trees and expand its arborist staff. The grant application was supported by a variety of entities across the City, including the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and Springfield School District 186, both of which will assist the City in identifying arborist student intern candidates for summer programs. Other community supporters of the grant were the University of Illinois at Springfield, The Springfield Audubon Society, and Sustainable Springfield, Inc.
Springfield was one of nine Illinois municipalities and three state non-profit organizations, including The Morton Arboretum, winning tree-related funds from the U.S. Forest Service, which awarded a total of $1.5 billion under the federal Inflation Reduction Act. Nationwide, 385 grant applications for tree-related projects were approved. The City of Springfield’s Urban Forestry Commission and Office of Public Works worked together in completing the grant application process.