By Jessica Sanchez and Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporters
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Neat Streets Miami created the ‘Street Tree Matching Grant’ of up to $50,000 in an effort to help reach the Million Trees Miami goal of achieving a thirty percent tree canopy for Miami-Dade County. The application deadline is Friday, November 15th and award announcements are planned for January 17, 2020.
Funded by Miami-Dade County, the grant is open to municipalities, agencies, non-profits, foundations, and community groups in planting native or Florida-friendly trees on streets, in corridors, gateways, bus stops, and connections to schools and parks.
Gabriela Lopez, a manager at Neat Streets Miami/Million Trees Miami explained, “Our goal is to achieve a thirty percent tree canopy for Miami-Dade County, which is the national standard for a healthy urban environment.”
She added, “Per the 2016 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment (prior to Hurricane Irma), our tree canopy was at 19.9 percent. However, as we all experienced, Hurricane Irma later devastated our tree canopy.”
The 2016 assessment showed that ‘residential housing (single family, duplex, multiple family and townhouses) represent 42 percent of the existing tree canopy and 33 percent of possible tree canopy on pervious surfaces in the study area.’
The study also showed that the largest percent of existing urban tree canopy (UTC) exists in three communities relatively near the coast south of Miami: with Lakes by the Bay (48 percent), Coral Gables (46.8 percent) and Pinecrest (45.9 percent)
The smallest percent of existing UTC in a census place exists in: Medley (5.5 percent), northwest of Miami, Gladeview (7.5 percent), northwest of Miami and North Bay Village (8.0 percent), a densely developed island that is less than one square mile in Biscayne Bay
According to the report, the tree canopy is positively correlated with median income, but negatively correlated with percentage of African American and Hispanic residents. Therefore, the program aims to strategically plant trees in minority and lower income communities to support environmental equity.
Lopez confirmed, “There is usually a direct correlation between low income areas and low tree canopy areas. When there is not a specific request for a location from our sponsors, we focus on planting or giving away trees in those areas.”
Planting trees is extremely beneficial to not only the environment, but for homeowners and wildlife. Trees can lessen flooding by absorbing excess rain water and provide a natural habitat for wildlife.
Additionally, planting trees can reduce air-conditioning costs by providing shade and improve a home’s appearance, which ultimately can help increase property value. Trees also reduce the impact of climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air.
A recent study published in Science Magazine, planting trees may be the cheapest and most efficient method to combat climate change.
“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said professor and senior study author Tom Crowther of ETH Zurich.
The grants aim to help the Million Trees Miami campaign achieve the tree canopy goal for Miami-Dade County. Grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000, and be will be awarded to applicants that can demonstrate greatest benefits for residents, employers and visitors.
Other consideration is given to the ability to provide a stewardship plan to help secure their joint investment. The grant applications will be judged using criteria such as; existing tree canopying and income level, impact, maintenance plan, project enhancements, implementation, and community outreach.
As far as the future for the Million Trees Miami, Lopez shares, “We are currently working to update the assessment to know where our canopy stands today (the update is estimated to take one year to complete so we’re hoping to have it completed by fall 2020).”