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Miami Herald: Levine Cava: Investments in Miami-Dade’s tree canopy are taking root

Miami-Dade County has come a long way in terms of recognizing the importance of reforestation and growing our tree canopy. What once was considered a beautification effort is now widely understood as an essential part of building a more resilient, safe and thriving community for all.

Trees help keep us cool, prevent flooding, purify our air and stormwater, and improve our quality of life. In the face of a changing climate, strategically planting them and ensuring they thrive is more urgent than ever.

That’s why my administration has taken unprecedented steps to increase funding, align resources, and more accurately map the county’s tree canopy to better meet our ambitious, community-wide goal of creating robust, resilient and equitable tree cover across Miami-Dade.

In the last two years we increased our annual budget for reforestation efforts by over 70% compared to 2021. This has helped us maximize opportunities and double the number of trees planted at parks and green areas, as well as in roadways, at county buildings and in environmentally endangered areas.

But tree cover is not just an environmental priority — it’s an equity issue, too. The communities most vulnerable to climate change are those that have fewer trees around homes and neighborhoods. I am very proud of the ways in which my administration is focusing county resources on expanding tree planting and tree giveaways in targeted areas that have less than 20% tree canopy and greater than 20% poverty rate.

Ninety-five percent of our tree planting investments in parks and around county buildings have focused in low canopy areas. We have also focused our tree giveaway programming to reach residents within our targeted areas resulting in an additional 10,000 trees provided to residents to plant each year. And we are close to finalizing our contract with the USDA to implement a $10 million grant to plant trees primarily on streets in our targeted areas over the next five years. This will be a real game-changer to address tree-canopy inequities.

I’m proud of the progress we have made to tackle this enormous challenge. But it’s clear this is a life-long commitment and that government cannot do this alone — especially when the majority of the land where we need to plant trees is not publicly owned. In urban forests, 80-85% of trees are found on private property.

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