The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted $8 million to Minneapolis to remove trees on private property infested with emerald ash borer, with a focus on alleviating the financial burden faced by low-income property owners.
According to city officials, the grant funding will go to eligible property owners with qualifying incomes or in environmental justice neighborhoods, such as Green Zones.
The USDA's Urban and Community Forestry Program awarded the grant to Minneapolis' Equitable Tree Canopy Management Program, one of the largest grants of its kind ever made to a Midwestern city.
"We are grateful to the Forest Service, Minneapolis Tree Program Coordinator Sydney Schaaf, Environmental Manager Kelly Muellman and our partners at the Minneapolis Park Board who made this grant possible," said Patrick Hanlon, deputy commissioner of the Minneapolis Health Department.
Health Department officials are collecting information to determine when the grant funds will be available and how they can be allocated.
"This is an impactful and valuable program on various levels, and we're pleased to be able to help provide these much-needed services and trees to our community," said Schaaf, with the City Trees Program.
Instances of emerald ash borer infestations have increased rapidly in recent years. According to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, in the last decade the city has condemned about 16,000 trees — and another 12,000 infested trees in low-income neighborhoods will likely follow in the next five years,
Besides removing trees, the federal funding will help with stump grinding, tree replacement, workforce development, and community-led engagement and outreach efforts.
"This funding will take a significant burden off community members in low-income neighborhoods who need to remove infested trees," Mayor Jacob Frey said in a news release. "This is a textbook example of environmental justice in action, and I'm proud to have worked with Council Members LaTrisha Vetaw and Jeremiah Ellison to support it."
The Equitable Tree Canopy Management Program is a partnership between the city and the Park Board to support Minneapolis neighborhoods and private tree management.