Data News Staff Edited Report
The City of New Orleans today announced it was awarded $8 million from the Urban and Community Forestry Program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forestry Service to plant trees in underserved areas of the city and expand urban forestry workforce training.
“Expanding our citywide tree canopy provides incredible environmental and public safety benefits for a city like New Orleans which exists on the frontlines of this global climate crisis,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “This award is in direct alignment with our updated Climate Action Plan, which includes a goal of planting 40,000 trees by 2030. These additional trees will aid in reducing street flooding and helping combat the ongoing extreme heat while providing fresh air and increased natural beauty throughout our neighborhoods. This important work will also result in additional training and good-paying jobs as we continue to grow our ‘green economy.’ Thank you to the USDA, our many dedicated local partners who were a part of this grant process, and to Congressman Carter who helped shepherd the legislation that made this federal funding possible.”
New Orleans faces an array of environmental challenges, including increasingly stronger hurricanes and rainfall events, soil subsidence, coastal erosion, and extreme heat. Some areas of the city are considered “heat islands” due to lack of greenspace and can be nearly nine degrees hotter than other areas. These neighborhoods are often less affluent and historically home to people of color. A recent study showed that the City’s tree canopy currently covers just 18.5 percent of the community, down from nearly 30 percent prior to Katrina in 2005. This canopy coverage is much lower than comparable southern cities, including Memphis, Tenn. (37 percent), Austin, Texas (38 percent) and Atlanta (47 percent).
With this funding, the City of New Orleans and community partners will plant and maintain trees in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods across the city. These plantings will help meet the goals of the New Orleans Reforestation Plan and Climate Action Plan of 40,000 new trees planted and at least 10 percent canopy coverage in every neighborhood by the end of the decade. The funding will also allow for workforce development organizations to expand their programming to meet the growing demand for forestry professionals needed to grow and maintain the City’s tree canopy.
Tree plantings continue to be a focus on the Department of Parks and Parkways and the Cantrell Administration. This year, the city celebrated the planting of 1,165 trees citywide, financed through $975,000 of City Bond Funding. Additionally, the city recently accepted grant applications for up to $200,000 in awards to be made to local nonprofits for neighborhood tree plantings.
Partners in the project include Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL), NOLA Tree Project, Water Wise Gulf South, Audubon Delta, Groundwork New Orleans, Louisiana Green Corps, Thrive New Orleans, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
“I’m excited to share the exciting news that New Orleans has secured an $8 million Urban Community Forestry Grant through the Inflation Reduction Act which I championed in Congress. This grant will fuel the NOCTURNL Project, which aims to boost the City’s tree canopy, combat environmental challenges, and engage underserved communities. With only 19 percent tree canopy coverage, this initiative will educate Louisianians about the benefits of green space, plant thousands of trees, and create job opportunities by training a green infrastructure workforce. We are taking a significant step toward a greener, more resilient future,” said Congressman Troy A. Carter, Sr. (LA-02).
Mayor Cantrell’s Federal Infrastructure Task Force crafted the City’s proposal. The city created the multi-departmental Federal Infrastructure Task Force in January 2022 to analyze infrastructure needs within the city and secure funding from new federal infrastructure and climate funding programs.