Louisville Parks and Recreation receives department’s largest-ever grant from the USDA Forest Service

September 20, 2023

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (September 20, 2023) – Louisville’s move to improve the quality of its tree canopy and limit future effects of the Urban Heat Island received a significant boost last week, when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the city of Louisville had been selected to receive $12 million over the next five years for its Louisville Equitable Forest Initiative (LEFI).

The Equitable Forest Initiative, administered by the city’s Division of Urban Forestry, is a multi-faceted approach to growing an equitable urban canopy and encouraging holistic sustainability practices for underserved communities in Louisville. The grant funding will allow the city to develop a public tree inventory and management plan, tree planting and maintenance in underserved neighborhoods, community outreach to foster environmental stewardship and the creation of a green industry workforce development program. More specific details on tree planting and job creation numbers will be announced later this fall.

Much of the work identified in the initiative will be produced in Justice40 areas. Under the Justice 40 initiative, the Biden administration has committed that a minimum of 40 percent of federal sending for certain programs, including those related to climate change, go specifically to disenfranchised areas. The Equitable Forest Initiative has classified 23 percent of Louisville as a Justice40 area.

“We are so thrilled the USDA team chose Louisville for this major investment,” said Mayor Craig Greenberg. “Louisville is committed to equitably achieving net zero emissions community-wide by 2040. Transformational changes to our urban tree canopy, especially in underserved communities, will go a long way in helping us reach that important goal.”

“I’m so pleased that Louisville has received this $12 million grant to support our city’s climate change resiliency,” said Third District U.S. Rep. Morgan McGarvey. “This funding will help address decades of underinvestment in underserved communities in Louisville through growing our urban tree canopy, increasing green workforce development, and creating community outreach initiatives in historically overlooked neighborhoods. I’m proud to support this initiative and will continue working at the federal level to provide resources that protect our community’s natural areas.”

Letters of support for the LEFI project proposal came from Greenberg and McGarvey; Metro Councilwoman Cindi Fowler; non-profit partners Parks Alliance of Louisville, Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Wilderness Louisville and Trees Louisville; and the Kentucky Division of Forestry, Louisville Office of Sustainability and the city’s Tree Advisory Committee.

The Louisville Equitable Forest Initiative will also involve the Louisville is Engaging Children Outdoors (ECHO) program and a significant number of volunteer projects and public outreach opportunities. A more specific timeline on the work and site locations will be released closer to the beginning of the project schedule.

Other voices of support for the initiative

“As long-time partners to Louisville Parks and Recreation, we at Olmsted Parks Conservancy are thrilled with the prospect of funding for tree canopy preservation and expansion across the city. Over 100 years ago, Frederick Law Olmsted had the foresight to design The Olmsted Park System as the green infrastructure of Louisville. We look forward to working with the City to maximize the system’s potential to mitigate the effects of our changing climate.” – Layla George, President and CEO, Olmsted Parks Conservancy

"We know the power of greening urban neighborhoods. Green environments improve physical and mental health, combat climate change, and reduce crime. This grant will allow Louisville to increase the tree canopy in urban heat islands thereby improving the health and wellbeing of our community." – Brooke Pardue, President and CEO, Parks Alliance of Louisville

“This is an historic moment for Urban and Community Forestry nationwide and right here in Louisville. This funding will allow Louisville Metro Urban Forestry to start leveling the playing field for historically marginalized neighborhoods in Louisville that have lacked the “treemendous” benefits of a robust tree canopy. Urban Forestry will now be able to utilize the most efficient and effective analytics to address the need for tree canopy inventory and management in these neighborhoods.” – Cindi Sullivan, Executive Director, TreesLouisville

“We all know the value that growing a healthy urban forest provides for our communities. Unfortunately, in Louisville and in many other cities across the country, the resources needed to grow and maintain the urban forest has been woefully inadequate for decades. This grant will provide valuable resources to address our urban forest deficiencies, where most needed. Long after the funds have been spent, and the grant is closed out, the benefits of this investment will continue to grow and benefit all our communities." - Jerry Brown, Chair, Louisville Metro Tree Advisory Committee

"We are so excited to team up with Urban Forestry on the Equitable Forest Initiative to provide outdoor education and recreation experiences for youth through Louisville ECHO programming. This grant provides an extraordinary opportunity for Louisville to invest in our urban forests and natural areas moving us even closer towards our city's sustainability goals." – Jessica Kane, Administrator, Jefferson Memorial Forest and Natural Areas.

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