LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) Michigan’s urban landscapes are set to transform through a historic $40.4 million investment from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Cities across the state are launching initiatives to plant thousands of shade trees and train residents in their care, enhancing “urban forests” and instilling a sense of stewardship among residents.

Stacy Bare, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, discussed the indispensable role of trees in cultivating healthy communities with MLive. “Trees don’t solve every problem, but they’re just such a critical foundation to a healthy community, especially here in Michigan,” Bare said.

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This conviction is fueling a statewide movement to plant and nurture thousands of trees, with an emphasis on community involvement and education.

The drive is backed by an unprecedented influx of federal funds, largely stemming from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Nationally, $1.5 billion is earmarked for urban forestry, with Michigan receiving a substantial $40.4 million share. This funding surpasses previous annual federal urban forestry budgets, presenting a unique opportunity to enhance tree canopies in underserved areas. 

In Flint and Mt. Morris, the Genesee Conservation District, led by forester John Cohoon, intends to plant 7,500 trees using $5 million in federal funds. This effort is guided by the principle of “right tree, right place,” ensuring that planting decisions account for local conditions and existing vegetation. By diversifying the tree population and avoiding over-reliance on single species, the district hopes to protect against pests and diseases that have historically devastated urban forests.

The Friends of Grand Rapids Parks will use its $5 million grant to plant over 5,000 trees while engaging residents in the process.  The organization respects the preferences of homeowners, allowing them to opt out of tree planting if desired. Currently, its “Youth Green Team” involves teenagers in watering and maintaining trees to assist the nonprofit over the summer. 

In Lansing, the city will leverage its $5 million grant to plant more than 2,000 trees and establish a paid internship program in collaboration with the Lansing School District and Michigan State University. This initiative seeks to create a pipeline of young professionals into forestry careers, addressing both “environmental” and “economic” needs, as reported by MLive.

Other Michigan communities are also benefiting from federal support. Jackson will complete an urban forest inventory, while Sterling Heights will reforest areas hit by the emerald ash borer infestation. The Genesee Conservation District is forming a dedicated tree crew to carry out planting and maintenance, providing training in arboriculture and boosting local employment.