PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has awarded $42,500 grants to the Newport Tree Conservancy and Providence Neighborhood Planting Program by the U.S. Forest Service to augment urban tree planting projects using the Tree Equity Score Analyzer (TESA) tool as the basis for outreach and implementation. A new tool developed by American Forests through a grant by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, TESA assesses tree canopy data combined with income, employment, race, age, and surface temperature and assigns a score, which identifies where tree interventions should be prioritized to address social equity.
Both Newport and Providence have a long history of activity in tree and urban canopy conservation. The Arbor Day Foundation has recognized them as Tree City USA communities for the past 30 and 35 years. The DEM Division of Forest Environment's Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) Program was awarded $100,000 by the USDA Forest Service through the 2021 State Urban Forest Resilience (SUFR) Grant Initiative to partner with two RI communities for the project "Incorporating Equity into Tree Planting." American Forests also will be actively supporting the project partners, documenting the implementation of TESA in case studies that will be shared nationally by American Forests, and applying for City Forest Credits Impact Certification for each of the projects.
"Urban tree canopy is critical infrastructure that can have a significant impact on human health, social equity, and the environment," said DEM Acting Director Terry Gray. "We are thrilled to partner with the Providence Neighborhood Planting Program and Newport Tree Conservancy to continue our innovative, first-in-the-nation work with American Forests and show the importance of tree equity to all Rhode Islanders. DEM's Urban and Community Forest Program aims to use these projects as case studies to promote the real value of adding trees within the communities that need them most."
As part of the DEM-DFE's 2020 Rhode Island Forest Action Plan, this grant program aligns with the goals established at the U&CF Program, which promotes active and sustainable management to conserve trees and forests where people live, work, and play.
The tree canopy is a linchpin toward reducing heat islands, heat stress, and mortality in cities. The SUFR grant will help Providence and Newport strategically target tree canopy growth in the most health-vulnerable populations like low-income families with no air conditioning and neighborhoods with high concentrations of youth and elderly. Municipalities can use this program to help their urban forestry programs reach their potential for climate mitigation, public health, and environmental justice. The U&CF webpages have information about green infrastructure and its benefits.
For more information about DEM divisions and programs, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook and at Division of Forest Environment, or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates. Questions? Contact DEM Division of Forest Environment's Urban and Community Forestry Program Coordinator Robert Allard, 401-222-2445, ext. 2772056.