Historic Federal Funding Will Help Illinois People and Trees

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September 21, 2023

Every community and its residents benefit from a healthy tree canopy, however, research shows that underserved and disadvantaged communities tend to have fewer trees.

That will change over the next two to five years thanks to a historic $15 million grant to The Morton Arboretum from the U.S. Forest Service that will help increase equitable access to the benefits of trees and green spaces in Illinois, and bolster community resilience to climate change.

The announcement was made on September 14 as part of a $1 billion federal investment in urban forestry through the Inflation Reduction Act. The Arboretum received the largest grant award given in Illinois and the largest award to a public garden in the country. It is also the largest grant of any kind received in the history of the Arboretum. The funding will be provided to underserved communities through a sub-grant application process, with funds earmarked for areas where tree canopy is needed most and environmental justice issues exist.

With its century-long history of research and education in tree care, its expert staff, and its leadership in urban forestry, the Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) has been entrusted to administer hundreds of sub-award grants to local Illinois communities and organizations in underserved areas of the state. CRTI is a coalition of more than 200 partner organizations working together to improve Chicago’s regional forest for nearly 10 years.

This funding is a step toward improving the lives of people who have not had the same advantages as others. These grants will not have a matching funds requirement, removing a significant barrier for cash-strapped communities. Communities in urban, suburban, rural, and tribal areas are encouraged to apply when the sub-grants are posted in 2024.

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