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White House adviser says city's urban tree plans are critical

Mature trees line Grandin Road on Charlotte's west side. Federal grants will help the city maintain trees in its designated Corridors of Opportunity.
David Boraks
Mature trees line Grandin Road on Charlotte's west side. Federal grants will help the city maintain trees in its designated Corridors of Opportunity.

A top adviser to President Joe Biden says two grants totaling $1.1 million will help the city of Charlotte maintain its tree canopy in underserved areas.

Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was in Charlotte Friday to promote the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $1 billion nationwide program to plant and maintain trees and fight urban heat and climate change.

Brenda Mallory
White House
Brenda Mallory

"We know that the temperatures in communities where there are trees can be as much as 17 degrees cooler than communities that do not have trees. So it helps with the heat," Mallory said. "We know that it helps stabilize roots within a community so that the flooding is reduced. It helps with air pollution. So there are a whole range of issues that integrate around climate change that are benefited by this program."

The money comes from last year's climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act.

Charlotte plans to use it to prune, preserve, remove and replant trees in its six designated Corridors of Opportunity — historically low-income areas where investment has lagged.

Mayor Vi Lyles said the grants to Charlotte's Canopy Care ($600,000) and Tree Maintenance ($500,000) programs are part of the city's long-range efforts to preserve and expand its tree canopy. The city's goal is to return tree coverage to 50% of the city by 2050. But Charlotte is currently losing an average of three football fields a day of tree cover.

"That means we have to plant more," Lyles said. "And so things like this grant and the focus that we have, we know that we have to start today if we're going to have an impact 30 years from now. And I think that's what's important about this."

City landscape division manager Erin Olverio says a pilot has started in three neighborhoods and will expand throughout the corridors in 2024.

"These grants are really exciting for us because they allow us to get more maintenance completed," Oliverio said.

"Charlotte is unique because we have a large tree canopy over all income levels. And this grant will allow us to go into specific communities where we do not get a lot of phone calls from, to allow us to do service requests as well as go on to private property and help people in need be able to care for and preserve their larger trees," she said.

A total of $9.2 million in funding is coming to North Carolina. Other grants went to Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh and Cary.

See more about the grants here.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.