Morton Arboretum distributes $6.9 million to help grow urban forests

Drone shot of Chicago skyline with trees and urban canopy within houses in surrounding suburbs, courtesy Morton Arboretum
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The Morton Arboretum is helping to grow urban forests, announcing Monday that it is distributing $6.9 million among 22 urban forestry projects throughout Illinois.

Morton Arboretum administering grants

The money springs from federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, under the direction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The Morton Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) has been tasked with administering the grants.

22 awardees chosen for grants out of 61 applications

After receiving 61 applications from disadvantaged areas, the CRTI chose 22 awardees, according to a news release from The Morton Arboretum.

The city of Chicago received the highest monetary award of $3 million to complete a 100% inventory of the city’s trees. That money will also be used to create an Urban Forestry Management Plan, and to hire staff to help out in identified disadvantaged areas. Another $1.48 million will go to the Chicago Park District to inventory its trees, develop a similar plan, and plant 200 trees within in-need areas.

“We know that in large cities like Chicago, we often overlook the benefits of green space despite these natural resources being the best ally we have in the fight to address climate change,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, noting that he is proud of the strides being made through Our Roots Chicago in raising awareness about the benefits of the urban tree canopy.

Money covers planting trees in disadvantaged areas, developing forestry management plans

A sampling of other awards included $10,700 to help the Bolingbrook Park District complete an Urban Forestry Management Plan and plant five trees in disadvantaged areas, $39,865 to the village of Streamwood for the planting of 119 trees, and $216,519 to the city of Joliet which will cover 35% of a 100% inventory of that city’s trees, while planting about 112 more, and developing an Urban Forestry Management Plan.

Other communities chosen will use the funding for similar endeavors, as well as removing dead or hazardous trees, enhancing community engagement, pruning existing trees, providing education, and removing invasive species.

“The Morton Arboretum is pleased to award this essential funding and provide ongoing support services that will address some of the many inequities communities have faced related to green infrastructure,” Arboretum President and CEO Jill Koski said. “The large number of applications clearly demonstrates the need and desire for resources and capacity to plant and care for trees for the many benefits they provide to communities and people.”

According to officials at the arboretum, research shows the proper placement and care of diverse trees has benefits including cooling capabilities, reducing flooding, helping to clean the air, and sustaining biodiverse ecosystems.

A full list of communities receiving grants as well as the projects they’ll be used for can be found on the Morton Arboretum’s website.

Applications for additional funding now available

The arboretum is currently accepting applications for $7.9 million in additional funding from the U.S. Forest Service IRA on its website.

Applicants must be making the request for projects that occur in and directly benefit disadvantaged areas. The application deadline is September 13.

Photo courtesy: The Morton Arboretum

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