Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today at an event celebrating the leadership and contributions of key partners in the mayor's "Million Trees L.A." initiative. Since Villaraigosa launched the initiative in 2006, more than 400,000 trees have been planted throughout Los Angeles.
"While urban forestry improves quality of life and contributes to a healthy environment, these efforts also create good jobs," said Vilsack. "Here in California, urban forestry efforts generate billions in economic benefits each year -- and thanks to the commitment of Mayor Villaraigosa and numerous partners, more than 1,000 young adults have had a chance to earn an income helping to plant hundreds of thousands of trees in the City of Los Angeles."
Vilsack and Villaraigosa also noted the initiative's special focus on education and technical support to strengthen urban forestry. The Million Trees initiative has established an urban forest curriculum for teachers and led to new youth leadership workshops focused on urban forestry. Additionally, in 2012, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, the Million Trees L.A. Initiative established the Los Angeles Urban Center for Natural Resources Sustainability, the first western research center focused on urban environment issues. The center is a prototype for future Forest Service research partnerships in urban forestry.
The Forest Service has also helped to support the Million Trees L.A. initiative through funding from its Urban and Community Forestry Program to promote research on existing tree composition and needs. The Forest Service provided $1.5 million in Recovery Act funds to nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles to support their workforce recruitment and training efforts. The Forest Service's Urban and Community Forestry Program is active in some 7,500 communities across the United States.
Vilsack also noted that urban forestry is growing in importance across the State of California, where 94 percent of residents live in an urban area. Urban forestry in California supports more than 60,000 jobs, resulting in $3 billion in individual income -- and urban forestry products and services add $3.6 billion in value to the state's economy.