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Branching out for change: $12 million grant for environmental equity

September 20, 2023

In a groundbreaking move towards greener, more equitable urban spaces, an 11-member coalition, spearheaded by Friends of Trees, has secured a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This monumental allocation is part of the Inflation Reduction Act grants, set to revitalize communities across the County. Specifically, the grant will fund the engagement of low-canopy neighborhoods included in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 initiative, which will bring resources to communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards. 

“This is an incredible win for the City of Gresham,” said Joe Walsh, City of Gresham’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships. “With this grant, we’ll be able to plant thousands of trees and shrubs that we believe over time will help to not only lower the heat index but make the parts of our City that are disproportionately impacted by severe weather more resilient.” 

The partner coalition includes APANO, Black Parent Initiative, City of Gresham, City of Portland, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Connecting Canopies, Depave, POIC, Verde, and Wisdom of the Elders. The $12 million award will direct funds to these partners and Friends of Trees across five years.   

The coalition’s proposal includes funding for community forestry work including tree planting, natural area restoration, post-planting care, community education, opportunities for direct community input and participation, and workforce training.  


The project includes: 

  • Community tree planting (training and engaging volunteers) to plant up to 2,300 street and yard trees as well as 21,000 native shrubs in neighborhoods and natural areas, specifically in identified equity areas: East Multnomah County, West Eugene, and Springfield. 
  • Robust post-planting care, including watering, mulching, and natural area maintenance. 
  • Community education. 
  • Opportunities for direct community input and participation. 
  • Workforce training. 


In addition to community tree planting and tree care, thousands of additional trees and native shrubs will be planted and cared for by coalition partners through other methods.  

“I’m proud of how hard Gresham’s staff work to continuously develop innovative ways of leveraging collaboration to not just secure additional funding resources, but ultimately better our community,” said Gresham City Manager Nina Vetter.  

City staff are in the process of developing Gresham’s first Climate Action Plan to reduce pollution and improve community health. This grant and the work it will allow the City to do is a substantial step forward towards those goals.  

To learn more about the City’s forestry efforts, the community is welcome to attend the upcoming All Things Trees Workshop on Sept. 28, from 6 - 8 pm at Gresham City Hall Council Chambers