The City of Richmond was awarded $6 million dollars from the USDA for deep investments in equity-centered urban forestry efforts, in partnership with Groundwork RVA, Southside ReLeaf, Happily Natural, and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. The grant was part of the USDA’s Urban and Community Forestry Grants program, which awarded $1 billion in awards across the country. The city’s $6 million investment represents the largest award in the State of Virginia.
"The City of Richmond already shines as a beacon of progress, and with this $6 million grant from the USDA we can continue to cultivate a future where equity-centered urban forestry flourishes,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “Our city is honored to receive the largest investment in the State, allowing us to forge a path for cities across the Commonwealth to follow."
This collaborative effort will be focused on Black and Brown-led, coalition-based urban greening and support the development of an Urban Forest Master Plan, tree plantings, conducting a tree canopy assessment, engage youths, adults, and faith-based organizations, advance green workforce development, and remove invasive species. The work will be targeted to areas of the community that are on the frontlines of climate change, often experiencing impacts first and worst.
“This is fantastic news for Richmonders, especially those in our redlined neighborhoods where tree canopy is scarce, and the heat island and health implications are profound. The size of this grant is testimony to both the need in Richmond and the strength of our community support for trees in our city. I’m thrilled to see the USDA investing not just in our city departments, but also in the outstanding community organizations who partnered on this grant,” says Councilmember Katherine Jordan.
Over the last several months, the City’s Office of Sustainability has been convening community-based organizations that are focused on delivering services to Black and Brown communities in an effort to apply for Federal funding. This grant award represents the first of what may be many that are focused on the nexus of climate change and equity.
“The Office of Sustainability is thrilled to help lead this effort as we continue equitable implementation of RVAgreen 2050 with a focus on environmental justice,” says Laura Thomas, Director of the Office of Sustainability. “We have been working to convene community partners to actively go after this historic funding in climate action and are dedicated to ensuring that the City of Richmond is the story of how this moment in Federal funding can transform a community.” Black and Brown-led community-based organizations are at the heart of this opportunity.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” says Sheri Shannon, co-founder of Southside ReLeaf. “The city’s RVAgreen 2050 Climate Equity Action plan sets the path for how we build climate-resilient communities. Now we have funding that puts years of planning and advocacy by community members into action. For Richmond’s Southside, that means we’ll have additional resources to plant trees, create amazing green spaces and empower more residents to take climate action. Impacted communities should know their needs are being prioritized, and this grant allows us to move beyond visioning to real environmental justice.”
“We at Groundwork RVA are extraordinarily excited by this news, specifically because it highlights the environmental justice work that many of our Black and Brown-led CBOs have been doing for years. The City’s Office of Sustainability has done a tremendous job building partnerships to help push this work forward and hope that these funds help drive the implementation of environmental justice efforts in Richmond. We are grateful to all the partners that have been doing this work for years and are thrilled about the opportunity to come together to implement equity-centered sustainability efforts,” says Rob Jones, Executive Director of Groundwork RVA.
"Virginia Interfaith Power & Light is thrilled to be a collaborative partner with the city of Richmond, Groundworks RVA, Southside Releaf, and Happily Natural Day for this USDA Urban Forestry Grant award. The implementation of this award over the next few years will reduce the city’s “heat island effect,” expanding green space and improving air and water quality. I am especially excited about how this collaboration will impact workforce development to care for our planet and people by caring for the tree canopy in the greater Richmond area,” says Faith Harris, Director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.
Visit rva.gov/sustainability to learn more about RVAgreen 2050 and how the city is dedicated to equitable climate action across the community.