Biden’s domestic bill would fund reforestation in cities in Pa., elsewhere | Monday Morning Coffee

The White House’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan calls for $2.5B for urban canopies, focused on underserved communities

December 6, 2021 7:12 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Urban and environmental advocates are looking to language in the White House’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan that they say could both beautify American cities and help them prepare for the looming threat of climate change.

The $1.85 trillion plan, previously approved by the U.S. House, and now before the U.S. Senate, would dedicate $2.5 billion in funding to improving and maintaining urban canopies — particularly those in underserved communities, our friends at report.

As Stateline’s Alex Brown reports, cities have come to regard trees as more than merely aesthetic, though that certainly doesn’t hurt. They’re essential infrastructure that filter the air and stormwater runoff.

More critically, they’re a barrier against the heat — with research showing that communities of color and low-income neighborhoods have less tree cover than wealthier, white neighborhoods. And with the sun bouncing off all that unshaded asphalt, the mercury can soar by as much 10 degrees hotter in those impacted communities, Stateline reported.

“With limited resources, there’s only so much work we can do,” Beattra Wilson, head of the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, tells Stateline.

Right now, Wilson’s program only gets $40 million a year. But with “[Build Back Better funding], we can continue to drill into disadvantaged communities and provide confidence and trust that there can be sustained improvement in urban forestry work for years to come,” Wilson told Stateline.

Here in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia lost about 6% of its urban tree canopy between 2008 and 2019, according to an essay published by PlanPhilly in September 2020. And trees are vanishing faster than they can be replanted, the essay by two advocates noted. Efforts already are afoot in the state’s largest city to replace that tree cover.

Pittsburgh similarly lost about 6 percent of its tree cover in a much shorter period of time — between 2011 and 2015Pittsburgh City Paper reported. In January.

In January, Pittsburgh was one of four cities picked to participate in a reforestation program sponsored by Cambium Carbon, a social impact venture focused on reforestation, that’s working in partnership with the Arbor Day FoundationCity Paper reported.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky (Getty Images).

As Stateline reports, the program has taken heat from congressional Republicans and their allies in conservative media, who have dismissed it as a government boondoggle.

But, trees grow in red states too. And forestry experts there tell Stateline that a well-maintained tree canopy is an important issue for all their residents — MAGA and non-MAGA alike. And while it’s being billed as ‘tree equity’ on Capitol Hill, the issue is far from political.

“The work is there; the need is there,” Missouri’s state Forester Justine Gartner told Stateline. “Funding and staff have been our two biggest hurdles. If we can get communities to increase their urban canopy cover by even 1% or 2%, that has a profound effect on air quality and heat.”

John Erixson, the director of Nebraska’s Forest Service, echoed that sentiment.

Tree cover in the plains state is on the decline, and Erixson told Stateline that he sees “trees as the answer to some of the issues we see with a changing climate. This bill would give us an opportunity to reinvest in our green infrastructure. We could get more work done on the ground.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Pennsylvania’s carbon fee for power plants is ready to be enacted, but a key legislative agency says it can’t happen just yet. Stephen Caruso explains the factors driving the regulatory delay.

In this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller looks into data showing household growth has slowed to a record low in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

State Senate Republicans have released a redacted version of their $270K contract with Envoy Sage, the company picked to run a partisan investigation of Pennsylvania’s elections. Marley Parish runs down what we know about what’s in it.

From me, a column: Four more children dead and a nation shrugs. Is enough finally enough now?

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, a veteran, is one of the leaders behind the push to include language in a must-pass defense bill requiring women to sign up for the draftCapital-Star Washington Reporter Arianna Figueroa writes.

City officials in Bethlehem, Pa. are dangling tax breaks in a special zone to developers who include affordable housing, Correspondent Katherine Reinhard reports.

In this morning’s installment of Helping the Helpers, our partners at the Uniontown Herald-Standard focus on the historic preservation efforts by a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Pennsylvania ranks 24th in the nation for its treatment of its LGBTQ residents, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report, citing new research.

En la Estrella-Capital: El Representante de Pa. Susan Wild se fija en abordar las vulnerabilidades de la cadena de suministro de Estados Unidos. Y Gov. Tom Wolf veta el proyecto de ley para permitir portar armas ocultas sin permiso en Pennsylvania.

On our Commentary Page this morning: With Medicare open enrollment ending this week, opinion regular Ray E. Landis has the important things to keep in mind. And with omicron cases piling up, opinion regular Dick Polman concludes that there’s no cure for COVIDIOCY.

The view north up the Delaware River from the Reading Railroad Bridge between Ewing, N.J., and Lower Makefield Township, Pa. (WikiMedia Commons photo).

Pennsylvania will get $240 million from the federal infrastructure law to address clean water problems, the Inquirer reports.

Pittsburgh-area hospitals are scrambling to address a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Post-Gazette reports.

Pennsylvanians are losing confidence in President Joe Biden’s ability to address the pandemic, the Morning Call reports, citing a new Muhlenberg College poll.

A former Lackawanna County resident has been promoted to a senior position at the Pentagon, the Times-Tribune reports.

On its 80th anniversary, LancasterOnline looks back at how the attack on Pearl Harbor was reported in local newspapers.

Philadelphia’s commerce director has resigned amid reports of anti-Semitic comments and verbal abuseWHYY-FM reports.

Penn State employees could face penalties that include termination if they fail to comply with a vaccine mandate, WPSU-FM reports.

A local police officer in Washington County has been sued over a taser incident, the Observer-Reporter reports.

The Washington Post looks back at the life of the late U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, of Kansas, who died Sunday at the age of 98.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
10 a.m., Reading Area Community College: Senate Democratic Policy Committee
3 p.m., Wellsboro Community Fire Co: House Republican Policy Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out to Chris Mautner, at PennLive, who celebrated on Sunday. Hope your big day was a good one.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from Joy Again to get your Monday morning rolling, it’s ‘Looking Out for You.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The foundering Vancouver Canucks finally conducted a long-overdue housecleaning, handing walking papers on Sunday to head Coach Travis Green and General Manager Jim reports.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.