$22 million worth of trees are coming to Colorado

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
New Vista High School volunteers Tyler Zeid plants a new tree saplings on the Cal-Wood fire burn scar, Thursday, October 14, 2021. He’s part of a crew working with the Cal-Wood Education Center. The wood chips around them are from culled, burned trees, and dropped by helicopter as a barrier to mudslides.

Colorado communities will receive $22 million in federal money to plant trees in an effort to bridge an equity gap in green landscaping. In the U.S., less wealthy neighborhoods tend to have fewer trees and green spaces, which can worsen urban heat islands and lead to higher energy costs and poorer air quality. 

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Xochitl Torres Small, who announced the funding during a visit to Aurora on Thursday, said the investment was part of a plan to address environmental justice and climate resilience. Growing up in New Mexico, she said only richer neighborhoods could afford trees and their benefits, like cooler streets and better erosion control.

“That's why this investment matters so much,” Torres Small said. “You're focusing on places and welcoming people who might not have felt at home in the fancy neighborhoods with the big trees.”

The money will come through new U.S. Department of Agriculture grants funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. Most of the grants will be used to plant trees in Colorado Springs, Aurora and Denver.

State Forester Matt McCombs called the project an unprecedented investment in the urban tree canopy. 

“We're going to improve the air quality. We're going to improve water quality. We're going to arrest erosion and manage stormwater,” McCombs said. “And we're gonna do this in a way that's a ‘for all’ approach.”