KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Throughout the years, the city of Knoxville has started several projects to help it grow its green thumb. Now, the city is getting help from the Biden-Harris Administration through grants to expand green spaces.
Two projects in Knoxville will be getting more than $3 million in federal funding. The funding is part of $1 billion in funding that will be used on 385 grant proposals selected by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
The funding was granted to entities in all 50 states, two U.S. territories, three U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands, and several Tribes through the Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.
The city of Knoxville is receiving $1,723,731 for its Growing Urban Tree Canopy project. This project will plant and maintain trees on city streets, parks, schools, public housing complexes, historic African-American cemeteries, and residences. It will also offer workforce development to train tree-care specialists; and empower residents to engage in tree stewardship by offering free educational events.
The University of Tennessee will receive $2,586,006 to go toward Gravel Tree Stormwater Systems to increase canopy coverage, reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate extreme heat, and bring ecosystem services to underserved communities in East Knoxville.
“The students, that’s the next generation of stewards, that’s our next generation of professionals and this gives our young people; educational literacy opportunities in grade schools. Our collegiate students are looking for internships, many of which missed a couple of years of internship opportunities as a result of the pandemic and so this is an educational experience that we can bring right to campuses,” said Beattra Wilson the Assistant Director of the United States Forest Service.
The installations will also provide environmental education for the community and local K-12 schools, and bring workforce development through internships and a green infrastructure maintenance certification program.
“This gives them a hands-on deliverable opportunity to learn, engage with the community, to do the research, apply the science they’re learning in the classroom, so this is kind of what we see as a living and learning lab opportunity,” said Wilson.
The state of Tennessee is also receiving $1,004,804 for Tennessee Tree Day. An annual statewide tree-planting event. The money will fund the event from 2024 through 2028. The event is expected to engage volunteers in planting native trees each year, enlist increasing participation from disadvantaged communities, and increase ecosystem services and benefits for these communities each year.
“Today’s landmark funding from the U.S. Forest Service will increase urban access to nature, improve air quality, keep city streets cool during sweltering summers, tackle the climate crisis, and create safer, healthier communities in every corner of America,” said John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation. “That makes a huge difference for the grandmother who doesn’t have air conditioning or the kid who has asthma, or the parent who works outside for ten hours a day. This investment will create not just greener cities—it will create healthier and more equitable cities.”
The USDA Forest Service is also trying to prioritize native tree species to help eliminate infestations that sometimes come along with tree growth.
“For the past few years, we received a directive of additional investment from Congress to help us with what we have seen as sustaining our urban forest resilience and it’s allowed us to look across the various pest and disease threats that’s taken over some of our canopy cover,” said Wilson. “We’ve taken an opportunity to make direct investments and try to meet communities where they are.”
This announcement is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to advance environmental justice, generate economic opportunity, and build a clean energy economy nationwide. The grants are made possible by investments from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history and a core pillar of Bidenomics.