Nationwide through Investing in America Agenda
Historic funding from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will increase urban tree cover, boost equitable access to nature, and improve climate resilience in communities covered by the Justice40 Initiative
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2023 – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is awarding more than $1 billion in competitive grants to plant and maintain trees, combat extreme heat and climate change, and improve access to nature in cities, towns, and suburbs where more than 84% of Americans live, work, and play. Communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. Territories and Tribal Nations are receiving funding, covered by the Justice40 Initiative and made possible by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act – the largest climate investment in history.
The Forest Service selected 385 grant proposals from entities working to increase equitable access to trees and nature, and the benefits they provide for cooling city streets, improving air quality, and promoting food security, public health and safety. The funding was granted to entities in all 50 states, two U.S. territories, three U.S. affiliated Pacific islands, and several Tribes through the Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.
“These investments arrive as cities across the country experience record-breaking heatwaves that have grave impacts on public health, energy consumption, and overall well-being,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are supporting communities in becoming more resilient to climate change and combatting extreme heat with the cooling effects of increased urban tree canopy, while also supporting employment opportunities and professional training that will strengthen local economies.”
The Urban and Community Forestry Program is the only program in the federal government dedicated to enhancing and expanding the nation’s urban forest resources. This is the largest single USDA Inflation Reduction Act investment to date in urban and community forests.
“Today’s landmark funding from the U.S. Forest Service will increase urban access to nature, improve air quality, keep city streets cool during sweltering summers, tackle the climate crisis, and create safer, healthier communities in every corner of America,” said John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation. “That makes a huge difference for the grandmother who doesn’t have air conditioning, or the kid who has asthma, or the parent who works outside for ten hours a day. This investment will create not just greener cities—it will create healthier and more equitable cities.”
“President Biden set a bold goal to cut in half the number of people that do not have access to parks and nature by the end of the decade,” said Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “This funding will expand access to green space in underserved communities nationwide, advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to environmental justice and our Justice40 Initiative.”
This announcement is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to advance environmental justice, generate economic opportunity, and build a clean energy economy nationwide. The grants are made possible by investments from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history and a core pillar of Bidenomics. The Urban and Community Forestry Program is part of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which works to ensure the overall benefits of certain federal investments reach disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment.
The grant funding was open to community-based organizations, Tribes, municipal and state governments, non-profit partners, universities and other eligible entities. In total, the Forest Service received 842 applications requesting a total of $6.4 billion in funding, an indication of the urgent nationwide need to plant and maintain more urban trees.
Studies show that trees in communities are associated with improved physical and mental health, lower average temperatures during extreme heat, increased food security, and new economic opportunities. This historic funding will help the Forest Service support projects that increase tree cover in disadvantaged communities, provide equitable access to the benefits of nature, and deliver tangible economic and ecological benefits to urban and Tribal communities across the country.
Grantees used the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to help identify disadvantaged communities. This geospatial mapping tool identifies disadvantaged communities that face burdens in the categories of climate, energy, health, housing including nature deprivation, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, workforce development, as well as associated socioeconomic thresholds.
More information about the funded proposals, as well as announcements about the grant program, is available on the Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage.
More information on the historic Inflation Reduction Act is available on the White House Fact Sheet: One Year In, President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is Driving Historic Climate Action and Investing in America to Create Good Paying Jobs and Reduce Costs
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number for the full mitigation amount of $975,000.
The 65-acre Pearl River development has been cleared for commercial use at Hwy. 71 and FM 969. The project will involve the construction of a rental community with over 650 units by Blakely Owner Apartments as well as office and retail space.
City Manager Sylvia Carrillo said the Pearl River project is the first under the Bastrop Building Block Code associated with tree mitigation. The city of Bastrop issued Blakey a land disturbance permit in May, allowing “certain grading and clearing work” on the property.
“While Pearl River turned in a tree mitigation sheet, our site development process issued a site, what we call a land disturbance permit,” Carrillo said. “However, in the preconstruction meeting, it was understood by all that this was going to be a clearing of the property as needed for the development itself. As a result, there are tree mitigation dollars that are owed.”
The developer agreed to obligations outlined in the Agreement for Tree Mitigation.
“We worked out an agreement with Pearl River allowing them to put up a bond considering the trees a public improvement,” Carrillo said.
According to the Aug. 22 meeting’s staff report, this payment may be made to the bond, through the planting of 1,232 trees around the city or the payment of $975,000 to Bastrop’s Tree Mitigation Bond for the city to do so.
“Essentially, they put up the money for the trees and a bond; they have to do it within two years,” Carrillo said. “After that point, the city will begin to plant trees and other areas of the city to replace … the trees that were taken down at Pearl River.”
Six heritage trees were knocked down in the clearing of the Pearl River project. Originally estimated at around $1 million, mitigation costs were valued at $235,800 for the development’s 14 acre lot and $739,200 for the 50 acre lot in the city’s agreement for tree mitigation in July after further review.
“[If there was a default on the agreement,] we would act on the bond and get the security to either plant the trees themselves or provide us the cast to do it,” City Attorney Alan Bojorquez said.
Pearl River construction project underway in Bastrop | Community Impact
Our Tour des Trees riders have been preparing all summer for this year’s ride and we are just about to start our journey from Reno, NV to Half Moon Bay, CA.
Their legs are ready to go but they need your help to get them over the final hump towards their fundraising goals.
To help them over that final hump, anyone that donates $20 or more to a rider or team between now and September 10 will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win one of six $100 gift certificates from SherrillTree.
Make a donation to a Hermino at https://tour-des-trees-2023.blackbaud-sites.com/fundraising/herminios-tdt-2023-fundraising-page
Learn more about the TdT at www.tourdestrees.org and help us all reach our goals!
AUSTIN, Texas — Heat is not equitable. Austin’s eastern crescent is hotter than other areas of the city and one busy intersection soaks up more sun than any other.
“At Rundberg and Lamar, it is hotter than anywhere else in the city,” said TreeFolks Program Director Benjamin Bertram.
TreeFolks has planted 3 million trees in Central Texas and is still working to shade urban heat islands like the area around Rundberg Lane and Lamar Boulevard which is in the eastern crescent.
“It is the hottest because they have the least amount of trees and there is the most amount of impervious cover or concrete,” said Bertram.
Bicyclist dead after being hit by truck, run over and dragged by another vehicle in horrific West Side accident
To help, the Biden Administration is distributing $1 billion in grants nationwide to help cities, towns, tribes and organizations, such as Tree Folks, increase equitable access to trees and green spaces.
“We’re planning to plant 400,000 trees,” said Bertram.
Many of those trees will be planted in the eastern crescent which includes East Austin, Southeast Austin, and the Rundberg area.
Earlier this year TreeFolks planted 11,000 trees in East Austin near Agave Neighborhood Park. With the new grants, 400,000 more trees can help protect people from extreme heat and make communities more livable.
“This tree planting is the most cost-effective way of addressing climate change but while we’re doing that we’re also focusing on the community,” said Bertram.
Environmental groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency say air temperatures around urban heat islands can be 2 to 10 degrees hotter than in outlying areas with more trees. The impact of shade is even greater on surface temperatures.
“Right now, it’s 96 degrees in Austin,” said Elle Ignatowski with TreeFolks.
Ignatowski brought a thermometer to Agave Neighborhood Park to show how much hotter pavement and playground equipment will get baking in the direct sun.
“Gosh. This keeps going up and up. So, I think we are at about 130 degrees right now and I have only been sitting out here a few minutes,” said Ignatowski.
When the TreeFolks Communications Director moved to the shade the thermometer quickly started dropping.
“This went from 130-degrees and continuing to rise to, it’s been steadily dropping, so now we see about 112,” said Ignatowski.
In the shade, it did not take long for the thermometer to read the air temperature of 96 degrees.
“Having a tree-lined neighborhood or a tree-lined park versus not is just a huge quality of life, physical health, mental health difference,” said Ignatowski. “Imagine if you had more shade and tree cover, this could be a much more inviting and friendly place.”
Central Texas organizations including TreeFolks, City of Austin, American YouthWorks and Go Austin/Vamos Austin applied for $35 million in tree-planting grants. The goal is to use those trees to ensure everyone, regardless of ZIP code, has equitable access to shade and green spaces.
from: Austin plans to reduce urban heat by using $35 million to plant 400,000 trees (cbsaustin.com)
We are excited to announce that ISA has rebranded the ISA Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist program as the ISA Certified Tree Climber Credential.
The ISA wanted the name and logo for the credential to reflect the most vital competencies assessed in the program. The new name is a better alignment for how our credential holders identify themsevles and how employers promote roles associated with the job, and visually, the logo illustrates the commitment to safety made by credential holders and those whole employ them.
Perhaps not as readily noticeable, but of fundamental importance, is the fact that the examinations for this program (both written and skills) have undergone extensive revision, overseen by experts and practitioners in the field, to ensure that they test knowledge and skills that are up to date with current practices and techniques used in the field by professional tree climbers. The new examinations will be available to candidates for the program in 2024 and you can read more about the Job Task Analysis that was performed for this credential in the June 2023 issue of Arborist News.
We are grateful to all current credential holders for this program and hope you are as excited as we are about this change, and that you will continue this journey and commitment to professionalism and safety with us.
For more information, please click here.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The presence of the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) has been confirmed in Cooke County this week. EAB is an invasive wood-boring pest of ash trees that has killed millions of trees across 35 states since its arrival to the United States in 2002.
On June 21, Texas A&M Forest Service collected several adult beetle specimens in northern Cooke County and tentatively identified them as EAB. The beetles were collected in an EAB trap that is part of a state monitoring program run by Texas A&M Forest Service each year.
A specimen was sent to the USDA Department Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) national lab and confirmed as EAB. Due to the trap’s proximity to Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Forestry Services have been notified.
“EAB is a major threat to urban, suburban and rural forests as it aggressively kills ash trees within two to three years after infestation,” said Allen Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Forest Health Coordinator.
After confirmation from the lab, the county was added to the list of Texas jurisdictions under quarantine by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). TDA quarantines are designed to slow the spread of the insect by restricting the movement of any woody ash material leaving the quarantined area.
“Because EAB is transported unintentionally on firewood and wood products, the quarantine helps slow the beetle’s spread by restricting the movement of wood in and out of affected areas,” said Smith.
The beetle was first detected in Texas in 2016 in Harrison County. Since then, EAB has been confirmed in Bowie, Cass, Dallas, Denton, Marion, Morris, Parker, Rusk, Tarrant, Titus and Wise and now Cooke counties.
Each year, Texas A&M Forest Service sets traps and proactively monitors for the pest.
“Since 2018, we have deployed nearly 500 traps across Central, East and North Texas annually watching for the insect’s presence and movement,” said Smith. “Early detection of the beetle is the best way to stop the spread and avoid high ash mortality.”
Ash trees with low numbers of EAB often have few or no external symptoms of infestations. However, residents can look for signs of EAB among their ash trees including dead branches near the top of the tree, leafy shoots sprouting from the trunk, bark splits exposing s-shaped larval galleries, extensive woodpecker activities and D-shaped exit holes.
Communities and residents can find resources on identifying and managing EAB infestations and creating a community preparedness plan at http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/eab/.
EAB photos and resources can be found at http://ow.ly/LIJi30lbBxz.
View the statewide summary of potential impacts of EAB at https://bit.ly/3zlJMcD.
For information from TDA on EAB quarantines, visit https://bit.ly/3INSlzV or https://bit.ly/3PzADlJ.
To report EAB, call 1-866-322-4512.
Visiting a forest can induce a significant increase in both the number and activity of natural killer cells, one of the ways our body fights off cancer. Can the aroma of wood essential oils replicate the immune-boosting effects of walking in a forest? Forest bathing is a term coined in Japan in the 1980s. Since then, we have learned it has benefits beyond just the exercise. In this video Dr. Greger looks at some of those benefits, and whether or not you need to actually visit a forest to experience them.
Friday Favorites: Boosting Anticancer Natural Killer Cell Function with Forest Bathing (nutritionfacts.org)
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
Intro: Forest bathing is a term coined in Japan in the 1980s. Since then, we have learned it has benefits beyond just the exercise. In this video I look at some of those benefits, and whether or not you need to actually visit a forest to experience them.
Previously, I showed how exposure to nature can have self-reported psychological benefits, but there was a dearth of data on changes in objective measurements. So, I was excited to see this paper on the effects on levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of those partaking in “forest bathing”––which just means visiting a forest and surrounding yourself by trees.
The level of cortisol in your saliva is considered an indicator of your stress level, and after walking in a forest, compared to walking in a city, or even after just hanging out in a forest compared to a city, people’s salivary cortisol levels were significantly lower. But wait a second, the same effect was found before they went to the forest. Huh? Forest bathing was associated with significantly lower salivary cortisol both before and after, compared with visiting an urban area. Therefore, it appears that just the thought of going to spend the day in the forest relieved stress. So, when comparing the effects of forest bathing versus urban visiting, the anticipation placebo effect may play a more important role in influencing stress levels than the actual experience of being in the forest. So, I was ready to dismiss it as just another nebulous psychological effect until I read this. Studies on the effects of forest bathing on the immune function showed that visiting a forest can induce a significant increase in the number and activity of natural killer cells––one of the ways our body fights off cancer. That got my attention.
It all started with this study. Twelve men were taken on a long weekend to walk in some forests, and almost all of the subjects (11 out of 12) showed higher natural killer cell activity after the trip––and not just a little; about a 50 percent increase compared to before the trip. Now, just exercise can affect immune function, but they weren’t walking any extra; they were just walking in a forest instead. Yeah, but they also were taken on a trip somewhere, introducing other variables. So, how about randomizing them to go on some city trip versus the forest trip? And if there is some special forest effect, how long does the effect last? Do you have to, like, walk in the forest every day? Before jumping into all that, how about we first see if it works in women too?
Same kind of setup, and same results: a significant boost in natural killer cell activity walking around in the woods. And this time, they went back a week later to retest them, and they were still up––though after a month, they came back down. But hey, once a week should do it. But it was a multiple-day trip. Who has time to hang out in forests all weekend, every weekend? How about just a little day trip? The title gives it all away. Boom! Same thing! The same big jump measured the day after the trip, compared to before, and with the same staying power. Natural killer cell activity still boosted a week later. This suggests that if people visit a suburban forest park once a week on a day trip, they may be able to maintain the increased anti-cancer immunity.
Okay, but I’m still not convinced. How can you attribute the benefit to the forest itself, when all you have is before and after data? To make the case that nature had anything to do with it, you’d need a control group that took the same kind of trip but went to somewhere else instead. And…here we go. It turns out visiting a forest, but not a city, increases human natural killer activity. Here’s the forest data, just like before, but nothing on a trip to go walking in a city. By the end of the forest trip, 80 percent of the subjects experienced a boost, compared to only 1 in 10 of the city walkers.
And, both trips were matched for physical activity, and alcohol, and sleep—other things that can affect immune function. And so, here we go. Confirmation of boosted immunity––but only on the forest trip, “indicating that forest bathing does indeed enhance [natural killer cell] activity.” Moreover, they found that the increased activity lasted up to 30 days after the trip. Check it out. Still up a week later, and even a bit up a month later. “This suggests that if people visit a forest once a month, they may be able to maintain increased [natural killer cell] activity.”
Okay, so, now that we know that it’s a real effect, the next question is, why? What is it about forests that gives us the boost? And (you can imagine Big Pharma thinking), can you make it into a pill? We’ll find out, next.
Studies on the effects of “forest bathing,” a traditional practice in Japan of visiting a forest and breathing its air, have found it “can induce…significant increase[s] in the number and activity of natural killer cells” that can last for as long as a month. And, because natural killer cells are one of the ways your body fights cancer (by killing off tumor cells), the findings suggest that forest visits “may have a preventive effect on cancer generation and progression.” Okay, but how? “Why did the forest environment increase…natural killer cell activity?” What is it about the forest environment?
One thought is that the boost may be related to a reduction in stress. If you measure the amount of adrenaline flowing through people’s systems, did hanging out in a forest—but not a city—drop adrenaline levels down? Yes; so that checks out, but drip some adrenaline on human blood cells in a petri dish, and there does not appear to be any effect. The stress hormone cortisol, on the other hand, dramatically suppresses natural killer cell activity. So, maybe the forest led to less stress; less cortisol, which released the natural killer cells under its thumb––and you get the big boost?
We know being surrounded by nature can decrease levels of cortisol in our saliva, but what about our bloodstream? A significant drop after a single day trip to the forest. But a week later, the cortisol was normalizing, and the forest effects sometimes appeared to last an entire month. Anything else that could cause a longer-term immune system change?
Maybe we’ve been missing some of our “Old Friends.” If you sample outdoor air, you can pick up an abundance of microorganisms floating around from the soil or water, which are absent in our indoor air (which is dominated by organisms that either live on us or try to attack us). So, maybe on a day-to-day basis, in terms of keeping our immune system on ready alert, it might not be sufﬁcient to encounter only the biased microbes of the modern synthetic indoor environment that lacks some of the Old Friends, and probably bears little resemblance to the microbes we evolved to live with over millions of years.
Or, maybe it’s the plants themselves. Maybe it’s the aroma of the forest? Trees produce aromatic volatile compounds called phytoncides, like pinene, which you can breathe into your lungs in the forest. But do these compounds actually get into your bloodstream? One hour in the woods, and you get like a six-fold increase in circulating pinene levels circulating throughout your system. Okay, but to fully connect all the dots, the phytoncides like pinene, these tree essential oils, would have to then induce human natural killer cell activity. And…guess what? Phytoncides induce human natural killer cell activity. If you stick natural killer cells in a petri dish with some unsuspecting leukemia cells, your killers can wipe out some of the cancer cells; but add a whiff of cypress, white cedar, eucalyptus, or pine, and the cancer cells don’t stand a chance.
A combination of wood aromas improved the recovery of mice put through the wringer. But this is the study I was looking for. If we want to know if the magic ingredient is the fragrance of the forest, then let’s see if we can get that same boost in natural killer cell activity just vaporizing some essential oil from one of the trees into a hotel room overnight. And it worked! A significant boost in natural killer cell activity; though it just boosted their activity, rather than their number, and being in the actual forest can do both. So, maybe it’s a combination of the tree fragrance and the lower cortisol levels working together?
Ironically, these phytoncide compounds are part of the tree’s own immune system, which we may be able to commandeer. The researchers speculate these compounds may be playing some role in the fact that more heavily forested regions in Japan appeared to have lower death rates from breast cancer and prostate cancer. Being out in nature has been found to be an “important coping strategy among cancer patients.” It turns out this could potentially be helping more than just with the coping, thanks to the fragrance of trees.
The Texas Tree Climbing Competition will be held at Richard Moya Park southeast of Austin, Texas. Gear check will be May 18th and the competition will be May 19-20, 2023.
The competition aims to simulate working conditions of arborists in the field. Male and female competitors perform five different events during preliminary rounds. Each event tests a competitor’s ability to professionally, and safely maneuver in a tree while performing work-related tree-care tasks in a timely manner.
Come compete or just to watch!
Texas Tree Climbing Championship | ISA Texas Chapter
Third times a charm. I have officially registered for the 2023 Tour des Trees Reno! The ride will start in Reno, Nevada, past Lake Tahoe and head into Northern California. Michelle and I are very excited to see what this years ride has in store for us. I humbly ask that you please consider donating to my fundraising campaign to support tree education and research. Any amount helps. Please feel free to share the links below with family or friends who might be interested. My fundraising page will be open until the end of October. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Thanks again for your time. Stay healthy and safe.
Link to my fundraising page:
Ice storms are serious business for Texas trees. If you are a homeowner that would like to know how to handle storm damaged trees, click here and click here. Click here to see if your damaged trees covered by insurance. If you are a tree professional, the Texas Chapter has two on-demand webinars from the ice storm in 2021. You can view them here to learn from Texas experts on how trees respond and how to treat them.