Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Nearly $600,000 For The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Through Inflation Reduction Act To Plant Thousands Of New Trees, Increasing Green Space And Planting The Seeds For A Brighter, Cleaner Future For Families

Oct 3, 2023

For Years, The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Land Has Suffered From Declining Tree Canopy, With Many Lost In Recent Years Due To The Invasive Emerald Ash Borer

Senators Added Historic Funding To Forestry Program In The Inflation Reduction Act – The Largest Investment In Fighting Climate Change Ever – And Now Nearly 2,500 New Trees Will Soon Line Roadways Across Region Thanks To Fed $$$ Schumer & Gillibrand Secured

Schumer, Gillibrand: Inflation Reduction Act Is Planting The Seed For A Healthier, Cleaner, And Greener Future In The North Country!

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $597,248 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Grants Program for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to plant thousands of new trees. The Senators said this funding was made possible thanks to the historic increases he secured in the Inflation Reduction Act, which included over $1 billion for the USDA program to help increase equitable access to trees. This funding, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe hopes to be able to plant nearly 2,500 of new trees across the territory to help breathe new life into its urban forests and address long standing disparities in tree canopy cover. 

“North Country tree lovers get out your shovels and get ready to dig in because nearly $600,000 in federal funding is on the way to plant 2,500 new trees across the Saint Regis Mohawk territory to seed a brighter future for all. Restoring green spaces not only improves quality of life and air quality, it decreases temperatures, reduces health disparities and so much more. It is how you grow a greener environment and healthier future for families across the North Country,” said Senator Schumer. “I fought hard to plant this funding in the Inflation Reduction Act so that more of our communities could have access to the funding for critical improvement projects. Now, a greener, healthier North Country can take root with thousands of new trees, and we can all watch it blossom together.”

“Expanding access to trees and green spaces gives our communities a higher quality of life,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This funding will help ensure that the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe can enjoy a greener, healthier environment. I am proud to announce this crucial funding and will continue to fight to create equitable access to green spaces across New York.”

“We can still see the impacts of deforestation from 100 years ago,” noted SRMT Environment Division Director Tony David. “With USDA’s support, we will be able to address findings of the 2018 Akwesasne Community Forest Plan and increase the number and diversity of native tree species. This project will move us in a direction of more resilient and healthier forest stands.” 

“From an ecological perspective, having a diverse tree canopy and providing access to green spaces is the most crucial element of a healthy ecosystem,” noted SRMT Land Resources Program Manager Jessica Raspitha, who will assist in overseeing the project. Raspitha added, “Our team is very excited for this opportunity to put more trees into the Akwesasne landscape, and to continued collaboration with project partners. There are so many ecological and societal benefits that trees provide, and we are grateful to continue our efforts in improving the local forest canopy. ”

The Saint Regis Mohawk tribe plans to use this nearly $600,000 federal investment to help plant nearly 2,500 new trees and strengthen a new forestry management plan that keep’s the territory’s tree canopy rich and abundant for generations to come. More specifically, the Akwesasne Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Management project aims meet these goals by taking inventory of the trees across the territory, developing an updated forest management plan, planting new trees, and implementing tree planting and maintenance practices to improve the urban tree canopy across Akwesasne. A new plan will incorporate the most advanced strategies for forest management and maintenance and is expected to be developed by December 2025.

In 2018, the Akwesasne Community Forest Plan reported that the coverage provided by the tree canopy in the community’s southern portion was 5.5 percent — compared to 35 percent coverage in a healthy ecosystem. In the past few years, infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer has progressed from Akwesasne’s main travel corridor of State Route 37 to other tribal roads. As a result, an effort was made to slow the infestation by removing hundreds of ash trees along Akwesasne’s roads from 2020 to 2022. As a result, the Forest Plan called for the goal of 250,000 trees to be planted by 2037. The USDA Grant will support this effort with the inventorying of 2,500 trees that exist along Akwesasne’s roadways and the planting of an additional 500 natural species. The Akwesasne Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Management Project is a community- based project that will be undertaken in partnership with the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment (ATFE), USDA Forest Service (USDAFS), New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC), SRMT Native Plants Working Group, and Akwesasne residents.

Schumer and Gillibrand explained that thanks to the historic investments they were able to secure in the Inflation Reduction Act, USDA’s Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program is making more than $1 billion available to increase equitable access to trees and the benefits they provide in disadvantaged urban communities. The Inflation Reduction Act provides $1.5 billion for urban and community forestry investments that 1) increase access in disadvantaged urban communities to trees and the associated benefits they provide to human health, the environment, and the economy, 2) broaden community engagement in local urban forest planning, tree planting, and management activities; and 3) improve community and urban forest resilience to climate change, extreme heat, forest pests and diseases, and storm events through best management and maintenance practices.