April 28, 2023

Brown, Gallego Introduce Bill to Plant Trees, Reduce Urban Heat

In recognition of Arbor Day, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) introduced the Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act, legislation to create a grant program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would provide funding to local governments and nonprofit organizations for heat mitigation efforts.

“As climate change worsens, excess heat and rising surface temperatures are putting more families at risk – particularly in Black and brown neighborhoods that don’t have enough tree cover and air conditioning,” said Sen. Brown. “Ohio’s cities are some of the best in the country when it comes to urban forestry, and this bill will help more communities get the funds they need to protect families from the risks of excess heat.”

“Phoenix summers are getting hotter and hotter, and as temperatures rise, time spent outdoors only gets more dangerous,” said Rep. Gallego. “In urban areas, the effects of these rising temperatures is compounded by a lack of shade and miles of heat-absorbing concrete. And too often, it is our lower-income communities that are disproportionately impacted by this extreme urban heat. That is why I am proud to introduce this bill to address this deadly issue, keep Phoenix cooler, and ensure the hardest hit communities are prioritized.” 

Excess heat is caused by several factors, including lower tree coverage, high building density, and prevalence of heat-absorbing surfaces like sidewalks and roadways. Heat stress is a leading weather-related cause of death in the United States, with more than 600 people killed in the United States by extreme heat every year, and many more experiencing respiratory problems and heat-related illness. In addition to being a public health threat, excess urban heat leads to increased air and water pollution as well as higher roadway maintenance, energy, and healthcare costs.

The Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act allows entities such as local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, Tribal governments, and nonprofits to apply for funding to implement efforts to help offset the effects of excess urban heat, such as cool pavements, cool roofs, tree planting and maintenance, green roofs, bus stop covers, cooling centers, and local heat mitigation education efforts. The bill text can be found here

The legislation is endorsed by Holden Forests and Gardens, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Cleveland Tree Coalition, American Forests, the Davey Tree Expert Company, and the National Wildlife Federation.

“The Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act will deliver much-needed financial support from HUD to communities and organizations struggling to afford tree plantings and maintenance. Arboriculture workforce training and robust maintenance of new and existing urban trees will be necessary to deliver the vital community benefits provided by healthy tree canopy. We commend Senator Brown for including these critical activities in the bill,” said Joel Alpern, Interim co-President & CEO of Holden Forests and Gardens.

“The Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown includes nature-based solutions which are proven methods to lower temperatures–shade trees, green roofs and porous surfaces for example. The difference between a cooler tree-lined street and one that bakes in the sun is investment–this bill invests where it’s most needed. Extreme heat events are increasing and urban areas in Ohio and across the country need this relief.  The American Society of Landscape Architects supports this bill,” wrote Torey Carter-Conneen, CEO, American Society of Landscape Architects.

“Both the causes and the negative impacts of heat islands are clear. However, solutions do not necessarily need to be complicated and expensive. Nature-based projects such as green roofs, tree canopy coverage, cool pavements, and others included in the bill will help communities – including underserved populations – lower ambient air temperatures and improve air quality,” wrote David Wilson, President of the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

“Extreme heat is the deadliest natural disaster, killing more people than hurricanes and tornadoes combined.  It also disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income communities, largely due to a lack of tree canopy," said Joel Pannell, American Forests Vice President of Urban Forests Policy. "Urban trees are life-saving infrastructure.  This urgently needed legislation will give HUD a prominent role in protecting communities from the increasing threats of climate change while empowering local decision-making and creating jobs."

“At Davey, we know the important role trees play in our society and the valuable benefits they provide to our communities, whether that’s improving the mental and physical health of the residents of our neighborhoods, supporting our local economies, or combatting the impacts of climate change,” said Pat Covey, Chairman, President and CEO of The Davey Tree Expert Company. “In order for communities to leverage the advantages of a healthy urban forest, they have to both plant trees and care for them long-term. Growing and maintaining the urban tree canopy ensures communities will reap the rewards of the many benefits trees provide for generations to come. Davey is proud to support a program that encourages communities to foster the longevity of trees in the landscape.”