U.S. Forest Service to plant trees in W.Va. disadvantaged communities

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U.S. Forest Service to plant trees in W.Va. disadvantaged communities
Trees improve air quality, reduce stress, encourage safety, and create spaces to recreate and gather. (Photo: Jed Owen)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The has been awarded $1.5 million to plant trees in disadvantaged communities in West Virginia.

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Though the state is renowned for its forests, many cities and towns lack trees, especially in disadvantaged areas where trees have been removed. Wealthy neighborhoods, with , are often more shaded than their poorer counterparts.

Once lined in shade trees, a residential street in Beckley, West Virginia, has been rendered less desirable. (Google Street View)

According to Gina Owens, a forest service spokesperson, the service will plant and maintain trees in disadvantaged communities, tackling heating problems, increasing property values, and supporting local jobs.

"An increased tree canopy has countless benefits for our cities and our well-being," Owens said. "Trees improve air quality, reduce stress, encourage safety, and create spaces to recreate and gather."

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The forest service aims to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefit of federal investments flows to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and lack access to trees and nature.

The funding, which was made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, is part of a historic $1.5 billion investment in the forest service's urban and community forestry program.

More than $1 billion has been allocated nationwide to support nearly 400 projects led by community-based organizations, tribes, municipal and state governments, nonprofit partners, and universities.

The project in West Virginia, known as the West Virginia Ecosystem Career Engagement and Training, will be managed by the West Virginia University Extension.

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In addition to this funding, the U.S. Forest Service announced an additional $750,000 to be used to support the state’s competitive sub-award program.

The service supports vibrant and healthy communities through investments in urban and community forests and the organizations that grow and care for them.

More information about the funded proposals and announcements about the grant program are available on the Forest Service website.

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