A UNLV-led Las Vegas urban forestry initiative received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to help counteract the growing impacts of extreme heat and climate change in Southern Nevada.
Over the next five years, UNLV and host of community partners will engage and educate residents of Clark County about the importance of trees in cities and add thousands of drought-tolerant trees to our community.
Another goal of the project, which starts in January 2024, is workforce development. Project leaders will certify arborists in training and connect them with employers as work is done to find more nature-based solutions to climate change – a major contributor to our warming cities. The Las Vegas metropolitan area consistently ranks among the top two hottest locales in the U.S., according to research organization Climate Central.
The arborists and other volunteers will plant trees in the neighborhoods surrounding UNLV and in East Las Vegas, the Historic West Side, along with parts of North Las Vegas. The grant also permits UNLV to plant on both public and private land, with consent from the property owner, in order to provide more shade to our residents and infrastructure.
“We are one of the fastest-warming cities with one of the worst urban heat islands in the country,” said Alison Sloat, a project lead and associate professor-in-residence in UNLV’s College of Sciences. “The best way to fight that is to expand our tree canopy. The trees will provide additional shade for pedestrians, help reduce air and surface temperatures, and improve air quality.”
Sloat says the objective is to combine workforce development, education, tree planting and monitoring, as well as community engagement to increase tree canopy and climate resiliency in underserved local communities.
UNLV is one of seven U.S. Forest Service grant recipients in Nevada. Joining Sloat in her leadership role are fellow UNLV professors Dale Devitt, director of the Center for Urban Water Conservation, and Phillip Zawarus, associate professor with the UNLV Landscape Architecture program. Additional project partners include The Nature Conservancy, Nevada Division of Forestry, University of Nevada, Reno Extension, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Clark County School District, and Nevada Partners. Volunteer and internship opportunities will be available as the project approaches its 2024 launch.
In total, the U.S. Forest Service is investing $1 billion for nearly 400 projects nationwide through its Urban and Community Forestry Program, calling it an indication of the urgent need for urban trees. The funding comes from the Justice40 initiative and the Inflation Reduction Act.
“These investments arrive as cities across the country experience record-breaking heat waves that have grave impacts on public health, energy consumption, and overall well-being,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.