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A city asked Rep. Upton to cosponsor a bill called the TREES Act. His office signaled it's unlikely.

photo of residential street with large tree branches hanging over and shading the asphalt
Sehvilla Mann
Trees shade Greenlawn Avenue near Lawn Street on July 18 in Kalamazoo

The bill would give money to communities seeking to increase their tree cover, such as the City of Parchment.

Climate activists and the City of Parchment Commission have asked Sixth District Representative Fred Upton to sign onto legislation that would create a tree-planting grant program, but it appears unlikely he'll do so.

The bill, known as the TREES Act, would give grants to American communities that want to plant more trees. It would aim to help fund the planting of at least 1.5 million trees nationwide over five years; communities would apply for grants out of a $50 million pot each year of the program.

On June 20, Parchment commissioners passed a resolution urging Upton to co-sponsor the TREES Act. Mary Ann Renz, with the nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby, encouraged the Commission to ask for Upton’s support.

“It’s an environmental equity issue,” she said of a community’s level of tree cover. “But it’s a climate mitigation issue and a climate resilience or adaptation issue as well.

“Trees lower the actual temperature, not just the feeling that it’s cool, but they lower the absolute temperature in an area,” she added.

Renz said parts of cities including Portage, St. Joseph and Parchment have low tree equity scores.

“That is, low tree canopy, high unemployment, low income, typically communities that have been historically redlined, so generally a high number of minority residents, and the planting of trees is really important,” Renz said.

Renz said that by cosponsoring the bill, Upton could help get it out of the House Energy Subcommittee, where he’s the ranking member.

But in an email to WMUK, Upton spokeswoman Caroline Banaszak said that “as a general matter, the Congressman does not sponsor bills in his subcommittee.”

That’s even though, according to Banaszak, Upton does not oppose TREES Act.

Despite Banaszak's comments, Renz said she will keep seeking Upton’s support, and encouraging others to seek it.

"The TREES Act certainly aligns with other positions on which Rep. Upton has been clear: it is bipartisan, and it would have positive impacts on the constituents he serves in southwest Michigan," Renz wrote in an email.

"Also, when he joined the House Climate Solutions Caucus, Rep. Upton was joining a group committed to 'exploring economically-viable options to reduce climate risk'--and the TREES Act is one such option," she added.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.