NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The City of New Orleans received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forestry Service to plant trees in underserved areas of the city and expand urban forestry workforce training.

City officials made the announcement on Monday, Sept. 18, noting that the federal grant was awarded by the USDA’s Urban and Community Forestry program.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said planting additional trees will help reduce street flooding, combat extreme heat and provide “fresh air and an increased natural beauty throughout our neighborhoods.”

City officials said New Orleans faces several environmental challenges, including increasingly stronger hurricanes and rainfall, soil subsidence, coastal erosion and extreme heat.

According to city officials, “some areas of the city are considered ‘heat islands’ due to lack of greenspace and can be nearly nine degrees hotter than other areas.”

They said the neighborhoods included in these heat islands “are often less affluent and historically home to people of color.”

A recent study concluded that New Orleans’ tree canopy covers 18.5% of the community, which is down from 30% before Hurricane Katrina. It also noted that canopy coverage is lower than in comparable cities in the south.

City officials said the funding will be used to plant and maintain trees in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods across the city and help meet the city’s goal of planting 40,000 new trees and increasing canopy coverage in every neighborhood by the end of the decade.

The funding will also contribute to workforce development by allowing organizations to expand to meet the city’s demand for forestry professionals.

City officials said this year, New Orleans planted 1,165 trees through City Bond funding and accepted grant applications for nonprofits to plant trees in the city.

The city will partner with Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL), NOLA Tree Project, Water Wise Gulf South, Audubon Delta, Groundwork New Orleans, Louisiana Green Corps, Thrive New Orleans and the Greater New Orleans Foundation for the project.

The federal grant comes as one of 385 awards nationwide and four across Louisiana.

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