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Maryland DOT Urban Tree Program

Policy Details

Policy Type: Policy
Jurisdiction: State
Status: Passed
Tags: Air Quality, Environmental Justice, JEDI, Public Health, Racial Justice, Transportation

Policy Summary

From the Maryland Legislative Assembly, The Act requires the Department of Transportation to develop an urban tree program to replace trees removed during the construction of certain transportation projects; requiring the Department to consult with businesses, community representatives, local governments, and residents in developing the program; requiring the program to provide for the replacement of trees in areas affected by construction of a transportation facility project with priority given to those affected by environmental justice issues or the heat island effect; etc.


Does the policy solution re-distribute power from mainstream institutions to impacted Black community?  

Urban trees can mitigate air pollution, provide cooling effects in urban heat islands (which disproportionately affect Black and low-income communities), and improve overall quality of life.  Heat islands experience higher temperatures than areas with natural landscapes such as forests or water bodies, because dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces absorb and transmit heat. With more trees, Black homes in Maryland, which are often not weatherized an experienced high energy burden, could see less expensive bills, freeing up income for other important purchases. The policy also has the potential to improve poor air quality, which disproportionately impacts Black people, because trees help filter the air.

Does this policy address needs impacting diverse groups within Black communities (Black femmes, Black LGBTQ+ communities, Black immigrants, people in poverty, differently abled, people impacted by justice system)? If so, how?  

Sufficient information was not found to determine if and  how this policy may impact diverse groups within the Black community.

Does this policy provide more decision-making power at the hands of Black communities?  

Yes. Greg Burks, who manages the new Urban Tree Program for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, calls the urban tree planting program “a game changer”. Greg convened a series of listening sessions around the city and state, to determine how to bring communities together, how best to implement the tree planting program, how to maintain the trees once they’ve been planted, and how to access civic resources. This allows Black residents to inform the implementation and decision-making process of the tree planting program, so they can go where they are needed more.

Does the policy undermine extractive economies like capitalism and restore community power around a local and regenerative economy/ primary production?  

While the Urban Tree Planting program promotes environmental stewardship and green infrastructure, it does not explicitly aim to undermine extractive economies like capitalism. However, by investing in local green jobs, fostering community engagement in urban greening projects, and potentially reducing reliance on fossil fuel-intensive urban development practices, it aligns with some principles of promoting local and regenerative economies.

Does the policy repair past harm and uphold civil and human rights, health and environmental protections? 

The program contributes positively to environmental protections and civil rights by enhancing tree cover and biodiversity in urban areas to promote environmental equity to mitigate historic and ongoing environmental racism which saw less trees planted in Black neighborhoods. The Act also can improve air quality, mitigate urban heat island effects, and provide habitat for wildlife.

Summary from MD State Legislature

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