Local advocates press Healey to fund Municipal Reforestation Program

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 09-12-2023 4:55 PM

Valley advocates were among the 21 groups and 258 people to sign a letter sent to the Healey administration last week, encouraging passage of a bill that would provide funding for a Municipal Reforestation Program.

The letter asks that the program — which seeks to allocate funding to municipalities that would cover the expense of planting more trees — be included as part of the Environmental Bond Bill, according to a joint statement from the Greenfield Tree Committee and the National Solutions Working Group of Elders Climate Action. The legislation (S 452/H 869) is sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Creem and Reps. Steven Owens and Jennifer Armini.

“Without robust funding, municipal tree planting and maintenance programs can be out of reach for many municipalities, especially those made up of primarily low- and middle-income residents,” said Mary Chicoine, director of the Greenfield Tree Committee. “The Healey administration must do more to support these types of efforts.”

Chicoine’s husband, Glen Ayers of Elders Climate Action, said supporting the legislation sends the message to elected officials that “we need to be doing everything that we can to address climate change mitigation, especially when it comes to addressing disparities in environmental justice communities.”

“Cities and towns with lots of pavement are a lot hotter than the surrounding areas and street trees bring those temperatures down,” said Henry Lappen, chair of the Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee.

Lappen added that beyond their cooling effects, tree leaves and roots slow down water and help with stormwater runoff, provide a habitat for wildlife, and connect people with nature.

“It’s really infinite the number of ways they help us,” he said. “As the cost of planting trees has gone up… we need support from a statewide level.”

Wendell resident William Stubblefield, one of dozens of residents from across Franklin County to sign the letter, emphasized the importance of urban tree planting in the face of climate change.

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“There is such a heat island effect in cities that [trees] really help to correct that,” Stubblefield explained. Typically, trees “tend to be in more affluent neighborhoods, so there’s a real justice aspect to it as well. Historically, the critical problem has been funding. That’s why this opportunity to get it attached to the Environmental Bond Bill is so important. It would lock in funding.”

In April, the Greenfield Tree Committee welcomed the community for the first time to visit its nursery at 34 Glenbrook Drive, which was created thanks to a U.S. Forest Service grant. Chicoine said the grant would help the committee reach its goal of planting 1,000 trees by 2025.

“In the past five years, we’ve planted close to 800 trees,” Chicoine said. “I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’ll reach that goal by 2025, which is exciting.”

More state funding would help support maintenance of trees for cities like Greenfield that already have established tree committees, as well as municipalities that have yet to create one.

Speaking by phone on a day that saw temperatures surpassing 90 degrees Fahrenheit, Chicoine said hot summer weather provides evidence of the benefit of trees.

“A good way to experiment is to walk down a street that has some shady spots and not shady spots,” she said. The difference, Chicoine added, “is just remarkable.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.]]>