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Great River Greening to plant 14,000 trees across Minnesota in five years

14,000 trees to be planted across 5 Minnesota cities
14,000 trees to be planted across 5 Minnesota cities 02:17

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Five Minnesota cities will soon become greener and in turn, cooler. 

St. Paul-based nonprofit Great River Greening received a $10 million federal grant to plant thousands of trees in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the Urban Heat Island Effect.

"It is the largest grant we've received," Executive Director Kateri Routh said.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service through the federal Inflation Reduction Act. Routh said it allows them to plant 14,000 trees over five years in cities identified as Urban Heat Islands. They've partnered with the cities of St. Paul, Faribault, Owatonna, St. Cloud and Brooklyn Center. Planting will start next spring.

"It's an environmental issue, it's a health issue, and it's an equity issue," Routh said.

The nonprofit partners with different groups to plant and water the trees on public land. They will all have slow-release watering bags, known as a 'Gator Bag' to help survival.

"As we are experiencing more drought and extreme weather and extreme heat these are critical in ensuring when we put trees in the ground they will be resilient and healthy for years to come," she said.

Volunteers, students and community members will be invited to plant trees. Some homeowners will also get the opportunity to plant a tree on their property.

"I think there's going to be a lot of need in the future for how we look at our urban systems across the state," Great River Greening Conservation Director Todd Rexine said.

Rexine said this historic project will also help replace trees wiped out by Emerald Ash Borer.

"We have a dying canopy right now. What's the canopy going to be in 30, 40 years? It's really now we have to really start planting," he said.

The program will be rooted in environmental justice in lower-income areas and communities of color, most impacted by climate change.

"We know trees are a really accessible piece of a nature-based climate solution, a way we can combat climate change," Routh said.

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