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Opportunities & Benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act for Pittsburgh’s Urban Tree Canopy

By September 14, 2023September 18th, 2023No Comments

September 14, 2023

Do you love shade, oxygen, birds, and fruit? Well …. The Inflation Reduction Act (2022) presents a significant opportunity for communities to enhance their resilience with TREES! Studies show that increasing and improving care for trees in our towns and cities has numerous advantages, including elevated property values, improved air quality, better physical and mental well-being, crime reduction, efficient stormwater management, and lower energy costs!

The US Forest Service has an Urban & Community Forestry program – funded by the Inflation Reduction Act – with up to $1 billion in available funds to foster investments such as: 

  1. Equitable Access to Urban Tree Canopy:
    to prioritize projects that ensure fair access to urban tree canopy (defined as areas of cities shaded by trees.) This access is not merely for beauty; it carries substantial benefits for human health, the environment, and the economy.
  2. Enhancing Community Engagement:
    to encourage increased community participation in local planning that results in greater tree coverage and improved tree health. This engagement helps create green spaces that enhance quality of life and provide vital ecosystem services.
  3. Climate Resilience and Adaptation:
    to emphasize the use of best management practices to help cities manage the impacts of climate change, pests, and storms. By strategically planting and maintaining trees, cities can bolster their resilience and adapt to changing environmental conditions.

One urban region in Appalachia is developing a bold plan to revitalize our trees to capture some of this big pot of money. Our region must not be left behind when it comes to development of all sorts, including our local forests!

Multiple grant applications have been submitted by the Pittsburgh Canopy Alliance and its partners, each targeting different aspects of restoring and enhancing the urban tree canopy:

Tree Pittsburgh

This application outlines all qualifying Justice40 Initiative neighborhoods and municipalities in and around the City of Pittsburgh, and seeks funding to expand community planning, engagement, and tree planting activities in qualifying neighborhoods. (Justice40 is a White House Initiative designed specifically to help disadvantaged communities.) This will emphasize career training and workforce development opportunities so people doing the work can have careers, and not just jobs.

Allegheny County Parks

This five-year Forest Restoration Initiative aims to restore tree canopy, address invasive plants, and involve the community in reforestation efforts in all the nine Allegheny County Parks. These robust efforts will be accomplished with existing staff, contracted services to include job training, new staff, as well as community volunteerism.


A proposal focuses on creating a circular economy for tree care and wood reuse through workforce development, establishing an Urban Wood Utilization program to meet workforce needs and increase environmental impact. The circular economy concept means that, from beginning to end, all parts of fallen or pruned trees will be used in a sustainable manner, making products or recycled back into the environment.

City of Pittsburgh Forestry Division

This application focuses on restoring 100 parcels of vacant City-owned property in our Justice40 neighborhoods by enhancing existing canopy, planting fruit-bearing trees, and implementing a maintenance program. More fresh fruit for our residents? We love it.

The Pittsburgh Canopy Alliance brings

Collective Partnership: These initiatives would be implemented by a diverse coalition of partners, including organizations like the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Allegheny Land Trust, and UrbanKind Institute, among dozens of others.

A Comprehensive Approach to Reversal: The Alliance’s strategy is comprehensive, aiming to reverse the decline in tree canopy while focusing on equity. Community-level planning and workforce development are central to this approach, and the work centers planting and maintaining trees in streets, parks, public greenspaces, and residential properties within areas that have historically lacked investment. 

We applaud this type of collective approach to federal grant applications. It’s not always easy, but organizations that collaborate together and leverage each other’s strengths are the ones most likely to receive federal funding. We hope the US Forest Service agrees that this plan will enhance resilience, promote equity, and reap a multitude of invaluable benefits for our urban residents and environment in Appalachia.

September 18, 2023 edit update:

The grant awards were announced and two of the four submitted by the collaborators received awards– $8M for Tree Pittsburgh’s coordination of the Canopy Alliance work in and around Pittsburgh and Justice40 communities in Allegheny County and $1M for the vacant land work proposed by the City of Pittsburgh.