Alex Gonzalez, Producer
Monday, October 23, 2023
Nevada environmentalists are celebrating almost $16 million in funding opportunity grants slated to be used for urban forestry projects, in an effort to help some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods impacted by climate change.
Lisa Ortega, executive director of the nonprofit Nevada Plants, said the money coming from the Inflation Reduction Act will be used to address urban heat islands and ensuring equity when it comes to tree canopies.
She pointed out there is currently a real tree shade disparity in the Silver State, disproportionately affecting poorer and minority-majority neighborhoods.
“We have some places that have less than 4% of canopy on their block,” Ortega observed. “We have other places that have over 40%. That is quite a bit of shade, and so it is walkable. Kids can go outside and play in as most comfort you can get here in the summer.”
A recent Climate Central study named Reno as the fastest-warming city in the country, with Las Vegas coming in a close second. Ortega emphasized on top of helping make neighborhoods cooler, more trees mean better air quality and better stormwater management.
Ortega explained many grant recipients are currently in the process of redetermining the scope of their projects as many did not receive the amounts they were hoping for. Even then, she acknowledged it is the biggest investment in trees she has ever seen.
Ortega stressed for the first time in the history of the Forest Service, they are allowing the planting of trees on private property, which she considers a huge win for a state like Nevada.
“If you’re on your way to the bus stop, the only way to get shade in your route is if somebody has a tree in their front yard shading the sidewalk,” Ortega said. “I think there is going to be a lot of effort planting on private property as well.”
Ortega is excited to see more trees in the ground. She added the Nevada Division of Forestry will also make available a $2 million grant opportunity, which can be tapped into by smaller groups and nonprofits who want trees for their communities.