Million Trees Miami - Miami-Dade County, Florida
Miami-Dade County, Florida’s Million Trees Miami initiative aims to plant 1 million trees in lower-income communities with insufficient tree canopy in order to alleviate heat stress in the county. This initiative stems from the County’s 2006 Street Tree Master Plan, which set a goal to achieve 30% tree canopy in Miami-Dade by 2020. Neat Streets Miami, a multi-jurisdictional County Board, is working to implement this goal through the Million Trees Miami initiative. Through a 2016 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, the County determined that lower-income areas, including predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods, had significantly less tree canopy than their wealthier counterparts. As a result, the County is prioritizing tree planting in its most impoverished and low-canopy areas through initiatives such as the Street Tree Matching Grant. Increased tree canopy cover in communities provides many important adaptation benefits, including protection from flooding, urban heat island mitigation, and improved water and air quality.
American Forests’ 1996 analysis of Miami-Dade County found that the tree canopy cover averaged only about 10% with some municipalities showing as little as 1-2% tree coverage. The County adopted the Street Tree Master Plan in 2006, which set the goals to:
- Encourage local growers to produce quality species of trees
- Promote the design of urban spaces that adequately fit trees
- Educate policy makers and the public on the importance of adequate tree canopy
- Develop and execute a Tree Management Plan to craft sustainable tree structure
- Promote the expansion of the overall canopy in Miami-Dade County to at least 30% by 2020
Miami-Dade County is working to achieve this goal of 30% tree canopy cover through the Million Trees Miami initiative. To achieve its 30% goal, the County has pledged to plant 300,000 of the one million trees, and is working with community partners to plant the remainder (including Verizon, Fedex, and the Arbor Day Foundation).
The Urban Tree Canopy Assessment showed the County had just 20% tree canopy as of 2016, and that the greatest percentage of tree canopy was located in more affluent neighborhoods. Lower-income and minority communities have the most difficulty adapting to the rising temperatures due to the cost amenities such as air-conditioning. To increase environmental equity, the County is prioritizing tree planting in these more vulnerable communities.
To do so, the County has created a Street Tree Matching Grant, which encourages municipalities, nonprofits and community organizations to plant Florida-friendly trees and prioritizes low-canopy and low-and-moderate income neighborhoods. At the end of its third cycle, the program was able to provide a total of 14 grants, adding up to $250,000 in total. Matching grants, funded by the county’s Tree Trust Fund, can range from $5,000 to $40,000. The County also works to improve canopy cover in areas that have suffered from hurricanes, such as Hurricane Irma in 2017, partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to give away between 500 and 1,000 trees several times a year.
Miami-Dade County’s grant program complements the City of Miami's landscape and tree ordinances, which require a minimum of 30% of the landscaping to consist of native plants, 50% of plants to be low-maintenance and drought-tolerant, and at least 80% of the plants to be listed in the Landscape Manual, the Street Tree Master Plan or the University of Florida’s Low Maintenance Landscape Plants for South Florida list.
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