Houston, TX – HARC, in partnership with a collaborative of organizations, has been awarded $15 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service for an initiative that will increase tree canopy, foster community resilience, and improve access to employment in underserved communities in Houston and Harris County.
The initiative, “ForUsTree: Creating an Inclusive Community Canopy within Houston and Harris County,” will use equitable and inclusive engagement and a community-based approach to implement multiple tree plantings, reforestation projects, and educational activities in the region’s most vulnerable areas. The partnership for the initiative includes ten Harris County and City of Houston governmental agencies, five nonprofit partners, and an educational organization.
HARC’s Nature Based Solutions Program Manager and Project Director for the Initiative, Dr. Ryan Bare, stated, “The health of our communities and green spaces are intertwined. ForUsTree is about collectively tending to green spaces and reinvigorating communities’ access to natural areas and urban forests in an equitable manner. The Initiative will help combat high temperatures and prepare communities for a changing climate, while also bringing training and workforce development, access to paid employment, and established pathways for green careers to these areas.”
The five-year program includes setting goals directly with local residents and stakeholders; assessing and monitoring urban tree canopy and conducting an additional community urban heat island mapping campaign; developing and providing opportunities for youth employment and paid on-the-job training; conducting, watering, maintaining, and managing tree plantings; and expanding workforce development pathways for green careers in urban and community forestry.
ForUsTree is one of 385 national projects, including six projects based in Texas, awarded a total of over $1 billion by the USDA to increase equitable access to trees and the benefits they provide for cooling neighborhoods, improving land, air, and water quality, and promoting food security, community health and wellbeing.