The Village of Skokie has been awarded a $327,000 grant through the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program to increase tree planting in disadvantaged areas of Skokie.
The grant, secured with support from the Village’s Beautification & Improvement Commission, will advance the Village’s Environmental Sustainability Plan goal of increasing tree canopy coverage in Skokie by funding a new Village program that will plant 450 free trees on non-Village-owned properties over the next five years. Areas that meet the federal government’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) criteria will be prioritized, followed by other areas of Skokie with a high percentage of low- and moderate-income households.
For every tree planted on private property through the program, the Village will plant at least one additional tree on a Village parkway or Village-owned right-of-way in a CEJST-designated or other priority area, with the goal of planting 1,065 trees overall.
“This grant will provide a significant boost to the Village’s efforts to enhance tree canopy coverage in Skokie and ensure that all community members can enjoy the innumerable mental and physical health benefits of trees,” said Mayor George Van Dusen. “Thank you to the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program for supporting this important initiative and helping Skokie meet its Environmental Sustainability Plan goals.”
In 2022, the Village Board adopted the Skokie Environmental Sustainability Plan, which sets a goal of increasing tree coverage in the Village from 25.5 percent to 31 percent by 2040, focusing on areas with lower income households and vulnerable populations. The Village’s 2022 Skokie Ground Cover and Carbon Sequestration Study found that tree canopy coverage tends to be lower in these areas when compared to more affluent neighborhoods.
The project, a partnership with the Village’s Beautification & Improvement Commission and the Skokie Chamber of Commerce, will commence in 2024 with surveying potential planting sites and engaging property owners who may wish to participate in the program. Non-Village owned properties that will be able to participate include businesses, places of worship, schools and multi-family residential properties including apartments and condominiums. Single-family homes will not be eligible for private tree planting, but may have parkway trees planted. Tree planting and one season of watering will be provided a Village contractor.
Skokie has been designated as a Tree City USA since 1985 and has memberships with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), Illinois Arborist Association (IAA), and the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association(ILCA). In June, as part of the Village’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget process, the Village Board approved a 75 percent increase in tree planting from the prior year, further supporting the Village’s efforts to increase tree coverage in Skokie.
Trees support healthier communities by combating heat island effects, reducing stormwater runoff, improving mental and physical health, filtering pollution, and mitigating other climate change-related issues. For more information about the Village’s Environmental Sustainability Plan, visit skokie.org/sustainability.