The South Central Fresno AB 617 Community Steering Committee (CSC)-comprised of residents, local organizations, local business, and other community stakeholders-has been working together with the Valley Air District since 2019 to develop and implement a clean air plan to reduce air pollution emissions and exposure. As a part of their adopted plan, the CSC supported allocating funding for Urban Greening, a clean air measure that would provide more tree canopy to the South Central Fresno community to reduce urban heat islands and provide a healthy environment for vulnerable residents.
“This is just one of the many exciting air-friendly community-focused projects happening in South Central Fresno under the AB 617 program,” stated Jessica Olsen, Director of Community Strategies and Resources at the Valley Air District. “In addition to Urban Greening, the CSC has prioritized over 46 clean air strategies for this part of Fresno, totaling over $45 million dollars and reducing nearly 2,000 tons of emissions in this historically underserved part of the Valley.”
The CSC and CCEJN worked to identify areas in the South Central Fresno that would be prime candidates for additional trees (see Figure 1 below).
“As an organization that has been working to promote Environmental Justice and health equity for 23 years, CCEJN is excited about this opportunity to make South Central Fresno greener and healthier by planting drought-tolerant trees in the areas where residents need them and want them,” stated Nayamin Martinez, CCEJN Executive Director, and community partner with the Valley Air District in this effort. “Until now, access to trees has been another form of disparity between the north and the south part of Fresno. We hope to begin the process to reverse this inequity and help all Fresnans who want to have trees in their neighborhoods adopt trees.”
Tree Fresno, a nonprofit tree planting organization who is celebrating their 35th year in the community, will use the funding to support planting 1,700 trees across two different projects. One project will establish a variety of community tree-planting events across area schools, community centers, and on other public land in partnership with Fresno Unified School District, Fresno Housing, Caltrans and the High Speed Rail Authority. The second project is an Adopt-A-Tree program, led by Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN), where 1,200 trees and will be provided to residents and business owners, along with tools and information to ensure proper care and irrigation.
“Tree Fresno is honored to have been selected as a recipient of funding from the AB 617 Urban Greening program to improve air quality for those who work and reside in South Central Fresno,” stated Mona Cummings, Chief Executive Officer of Tree Fresno, key partner with the Valley Air District in this effort. “Under the grant, Tree Fresno combines multiple decades of experience expanding the urban tree canopy across the Central Valley with the expertise of CCEJN, which specializes in community outreach and engagement of diverse communities. This partnership increases Tree Fresno’s capacity to outreach to homeowners and those who control properties in the Boundary Area of AB 617 about the value of expanding the urban tree canopy and to provide resources to plant new trees.”
The District expects tree planting projects to begin this spring and continue over the next three years.
Figure 1: One of several tools used to identify Urban Greening needs in South Central Fresno