Federal grant to help Charlotte maintain tree canopy

CHARLOTTE — With its reputation as a “Tree City,” Charlotte has often ranked among metro areas with the best tree canopies, though in recent years, there’s been a renewed emphasis on making sure that canopy continues to grow and serves every neighborhood.

In Sept. the USDA announced Charlotte would receive two grants totaling $1.1 million to help maintain and restore the city’s canopy. Both grants focus on the city’s corridors of opportunity aiming to improve the canopy in areas that historically, have seen little investment from the city.

The Canopy Care program will get $600,000 to plant new trees, maintain existing trees and remove hazardous trees on public land, while the Tree Maintenance Program will get $500,000 to work with Housing and Neighborhood Services to address similar concerns on private property.

“We’re here to provide that care for that tree, to help with the pruning to help it live as long as it can and be as safe as possible, or to remove a tree when it has just reached the end of its life,” Laurie Reid, a city arborist, said.

Not only will the grants help to improve tree equity in the city, but it could also serve to help the city meet its goals of 50% canopy coverage by 2050.

The last time Charlotte studied its tree cover, in 2018, arborists found the city had roughly 45 percent tree cover. It’s well above the national average of 39.4 percent, but it also signaled a loss of 7,500 trees, mostly due to development. The city is currently working on another canopy study to determine how much the canopy has changed over the past five years.

Replacing lost canopy can take years, even decades of growth and care.

“It’s not just put the tree in the ground and you’re done,” she said. “A really large oak tree can cost 5,6, $700 just to prune for a removal of a large, dead tree, it can be thousands of dollars.”

With that investment however, comes public health and infrastructure gains. Trees filter the air, sequester carbon, slow down storm water flow and provide shade to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

“There are even studies that they can reduce issues with heart disease,” Reid said. “It’s just not something pretty out there for us, it does a lot of really great benefits for the city.”

(WATCH BELOW: What’s threatening Charlotte’s tree canopy?)

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.