Knight Foundation, county join to increase urban tree canopy

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is joining Miami-Dade County to support the Million Trees Miami initiative, a community-wide effort to plant one million trees by 2020.

According to a recently released Urban Tree Canopy Assessment conducted by the University of Florida and Florida International University, the county has only 19.9 percent tree canopy — well below the 30-40 percent recommended coverage for a healthy urban forest.

To address this issue, Knight Foundation’s support will advance the Million Trees Miami initiative, by convening a group of local leaders to develop a Strategic Plan that will engage residents to plant one million trees.

“Residents experience the value of trees every day when they are enjoying a breeze while watching their child’s sports game, or taking a walk beneath the shade of its branches, or when trees prevent flooding by absorbing groundwater every time it rains,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “We appreciate Knight Foundation’s support and know this investment will go a long way in creating a green legacy for our community.”

Members of the Million Trees Miami Strategic Plan Advisory Committee include: Dennis C. Moss, Miami-Dade Commissioner, District 9; Dave Lawrence, The Children’s Movement; Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation; Bruce Greer, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens; Stuart Kennedy, The Miami Foundation; Jack Kardys, Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces; Carli Koshal, Bercow, Radell & Fernandez; Pete Wood, Health Foundation of South Florida; Rick Johnson, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority; Aletha Player, FPL; George Pantazopoulos, Titan America; William Talbert III, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau; Joseph Doolan, TD Bank, and Patrice Gillespie Smith, Neat Streets Miami.

“By creating more vibrant public spaces, Million Trees Miami will improve neighborhood life for all of our residents, while advancing new opportunities for growth,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. “It will help foster a culture of civic engagement, along with encouraging more people to take hold of the future of our city.”

Armed with assessment findings, committee members will meet over the next few months to develop a Strategic Plan to help accelerate Million Trees Miami’s efforts. The Urban Tree Canopy Assessment was sponsored through a partnership with Neat Streets Miami and American Forests Community ReLeaf Initiative, primarily funded by Bank of America and the U.S. Forest Service.

“When we launched the ambitious Million Trees Miami initiative five years ago, we knew that the only way we would succeed is by working with our partners,” said Miami-Dade District 9 Commissioner Dennis C. Moss, chair of Neat Streets Miami, the board that oversees the Million Trees Miami initiative.

“We are grateful to Knight Foundation and Advisory Committee members for their contributions to the monumental task of increasing our tree canopy,” Moss said.

“We are delighted by Miami-Dade County’s commitment to expanding their tree canopy,” said Scott Steen, president and CEO of American Forests. “In leveraging our grant, the county is making a critically important investment in quality of life for all in the community, one that will pay dividends to residents and businesses for decades into the future.”

About the study
The Urban Tree Canopy assessment focused on the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of tree cover. GIS layers capturing Miami-Dade County’s tree canopy, surface temperature, health and socioeconomic data are presented by municipality, county commission district, census tract and zip code. They can be accessed by visiting: www.milliontrees.miamidade.gov.

High-level findings include:
• Residential housing (single family, duplex, multiple family and townhouses) represent 42 percent of the existing tree canopy and 33 percent of possible tree canopy on pervious surfaces in the study area.

• Tree canopy and water bodies are associated with lower surface temperatures. Therefore, planting trees in targeted areas can reduce heat islands.

• Tree canopy is positively correlated with median income, but negatively correlated with percentage of African American and Hispanic residents.

• Higher tree canopy percentage is associated with lower overall hospitalization numbers and also with lower hospitalization numbers related to asthma.


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