Hanover, MD (May 30, 2023) – The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is taking significant steps to support Maryland’s ambitious goal of planting five million trees by 2031. Through a series of initiatives, MDOT aims to add thousands of new trees annually across the state, utilizing plantings, grants, and community-based efforts to encourage support for the Maryland Forest Service.

MDOT is one of several state agencies involved in the Growing 5 Million Trees in Maryland plan, an initiative led by a commission chaired by the Maryland Department of the Environment. The program’s inception can be traced back to the Tree Solutions Now Act, passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld emphasized the department’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and creating a cleaner and more efficient transportation network. Secretary Wiedefeld stated, “Our partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders in the 5 Million Trees initiative will make a generational impact on those goals.”

While the department routinely plants trees as part of various projects, these plantings do not count toward the 5 Million Trees initiative as they primarily mitigate the impact of those projects. Nevertheless, MDOT’s Office of Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation actively conducts other tree-planting programs. Some of these programs include:

  1. Maryland Department of Transportation’s Urban Tree Grant Program: In partnership with the Maryland Urban and Community Forest Committee and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, this program awards grants of up to $5,000 for tree plantings and pocket forest projects. Nonprofits, schools, local business associations, youth, civic groups, and others can apply for these grants. The program mainly targets areas affected by environmental justice issues or the heat island effect, such as urban areas with limited tree canopy.
  2. Motor Vehicle Administration’s Tree Planting Donation: Maryland residents can donate $1 or more to the Maryland Forest Service when registering or renewing their vehicle registration. These donations go directly toward planting trees.
  3. Maryland Port Administration’s Urban Forestry Partnership: This program collaborates with communities to restore the tree canopy in streets and parks throughout Baltimore City. Between 2018 and 2020, the partnership successfully planted 1,500 trees in neighborhoods across the city.

Additionally, MDOT supports the annual Keep Maryland Beautiful program in collaboration with the Maryland Environmental Trust, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Forever Maryland Foundation. The program offers grants to community groups for various projects, including tree plantings and environmental cleanup efforts.

The Growing 5 Million Trees in Maryland plan, which aims to plant and maintain five million native trees by 2031, was developed by the Maryland Commission for the Innovation and Advancement of Carbon Markets and Sustainable Tree Plantings. The initiative focuses on promoting equity by targeting the planting of at least 500,000 trees in underserved urban communities.

The Maryland Department of the Environment launched an online tracking tool and hub site in April to facilitate tracking and coordination of tree plantings. The tool will monitor tree plantings and progress toward the 5 Million Trees goal, showcasing community-based projects and agency efforts. The hub site offers a resource library with tree planting tips and guides, a statewide map of tree planting assistance and rebate programs, and volunteer and training opportunities to engage more people in tree plantings across Maryland.

The Office of Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation at MDOT has created a video titled “Why Plant Trees?” highlighting the community benefits of tree planting.

Planting trees brings numerous environmental and social benefits. Trees absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gases and pollutants in the

air while replenishing oxygen. They also aid in reducing stormwater run-off and preventing erosion. Native trees, in particular, provide essential resources for wildlife, serving as food sources and shelters.

Furthermore, the presence of trees positively impacts mental and emotional well-being. In addition to improved air quality, reduced temperatures, and increased shade, green spaces provided by trees have been shown to improve physical and mental health outcomes, support youth development, and foster community engagement.

The support for the 5 Million Trees Initiative extends beyond the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment. Other participating entities include the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Additionally, the state has forged partnerships with various community-based organizations, non-profits, and local governments.

The commitment to the 5 Million Trees Initiative aligns with Maryland’s broader environmental goals, including its efforts to combat climate change, enhance ecological resilience, and protect natural resources. By planting five million trees by 2031, Maryland aims to strengthen its green infrastructure, promote biodiversity, and mitigate the impacts of urbanization.

With the implementation of these initiatives, Maryland is taking a significant step towards creating a greener and more sustainable future. By leveraging partnerships, grants, and community involvement, the state is fostering a collective effort to enhance the environment, combat climate change, and improve the quality of life for its residents.

To learn more about the 5 Million Trees Initiative and get involved in tree plantings across Maryland, visit the Maryland Department of the Environment’s online hub site at [insert website link]. The site provides valuable resources, including planting tips, guides, and information on volunteer and training opportunities.

The Maryland Department of Transportation encourages individuals, organizations, and communities to join in this ambitious endeavor. Together, through the power of tree planting, Maryland can make a lasting and positive impact on its environment, its residents, and its future generations.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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