WOONSOCKET, RI – Governor Gina M. Raimondo today joined state officials, the City of Woonsocket, RI Tree Council, American Forests, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, National Grid, and other partners at a special event celebrating Arbor Day in Rhode Island. More than $650K in grants were announced for forestry projects that beautify urban areas, mitigate climate change, and improve public health in Rhode Island. At the Woonsocket ceremony, Governor Raimondo read a proclamation declaring today the 132nd anniversary of Arbor Day in Rhode Island.
The Governor announced that Rhode Island, working alongside the nation's oldest conservation organization, American Forests, has received a $650,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to increase urban forests statewide. In approving the state's application, the foundation spotlighted Raimondo's Resilient Rhody action plan to drive climate resilience efforts across Rhode Island. Led by Chief Resilience Officer Shaun O'Rourke, the implementation of the grant will empower the state to engage directly with municipalities to develop a statewide urban tree canopy goal, support tree planting and tree care for 3 to 5 pilot communities, develop stronger relationships with nursery and landscape associations, develop an online "decision support tool" to assist with optimizing urban tree planting for environmental and public health benefits, and hire a 2-year grant funded position (who will be an American Forests employee) to be housed at DEM to manage the grant.
"I can't think of a better way to celebrate Arbor Day than by announcing more than $650,000 in grants to support forestry projects in Rhode Island," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "Trees are critical in our fight against climate change, and statewide urban tree planning was one of the key strategies identified in our Resilient Rhody report as a way to build climate resiliency in our state."
"It is a distinct honor for the City of Woonsocket to be selected as the celebratory host site for Arbor Day's 132nd Anniversary here in Rhode Island considering our City was founded in 1888 – just one year after our state first observed Arbor Day in 1887 further enabling widespread growth of its impactful, lasting legacy," said Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.
"Trees are enormously beneficial to the health of people and communities. Trees reduce stress, promote physical activity, clean and cool the air, and help us fight climate change," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "The partnership announced today will help us expand tree canopy cover in neighborhoods throughout Rhode Island, advancing our work to give all Rhode Islanders and all communities an equal opportunity to be as healthy as possible."
As part of today's Arbor Day ceremony in Woonsocket, DEM announced seven America the Beautiful: Tree Rhode Island grants, totaling $15,000. The grants, made possible by the U.S. Forest Service with $22,500 in matching local funds, will fund tree plantings, educational programming, and community outreach. To date, DEM has awarded more than $5 million in grants under this program.
"The simple act of planting a tree has so many environmental benefits," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "One tree, planted in the right place can improve air quality, sequester carbon, and help manage stormwater runoff. It's a tangible way to stand up to climate change and beautify our communities at the same time."
In addition to the America The Beautiful grant awards, several municipalities were recognized for their efforts to green local communities as part of the National Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA program: Bristol, Central Falls, Cranston, East Providence, Jamestown, Middletown, Narragansett, Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, Warren, Warwick, and West Warwick. Salve Regina University was recognized for its participation in the Foundation's Tree Campus USA program.
"Ramping up urban forests aligns perfectly with Rhode Island's bold and inclusive leadership to build resilient communities and act on climate change," said Jad Daley, President and CEO of American Forests. "We are thrilled to bring our organization's 100-year history of urban forestry expertise to help."
"The Infrastructure Bank is proud to join our state and local partners to recognize Arbor Day in Woonsocket," said Jeffrey Diehl, CEO of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. "Together we are focused on preparing Rhode Island communities to be resilient against the effects of climate change through infrastructure improvements, planning and long term protection of important natural resources, like trees."
Each year, Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April to mark the importance of trees to our environment, culture, and economy. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska in 1872 with more than one million tree plantings. Rhode Island began celebrating the day in 1887.