Detroit Tree Equity Partnership aims to go from blight to beauty

It started with a hole. Nearby, a young tree was waiting to take root in its new home on a median across from St. John Lutheran Church in Detroit, a crowd watching as an urban forestry specialist expertly planted it in the ground on a warm fall day.

Far from a typical landscaping project, this tree is among the first of thousands to be planted across targeted areas of Detroit as part of the Detroit Tree Equity Partnership, a $30 million investment in the city that will grow the tree canopy and add 300 urban forestry jobs to the local economy that was formally launched on Oct. 11.

The partnership brings DTE together with American Forests, the City of Detroit, the Greening of Detroit, the Erb Foundation and other partners with the ambitious goal of ensuring every urban neighborhood has enough trees so that every person benefits. Detroit was once known as tree city but, over the years, some neighborhoods’ tree canopies have shrunk. Trees have many benefits – social, economic and environmental – and Chairman and CEO Jerry Norcia immediately recognized the importance of bringing trees to targeted areas that need them most.
“DTE is proud to have been a leader in developing the Detroit Tree Equity Partnership as a way to partner with our community and improve the lives of thousands of Detroit residents,” Norcia said. “Investing in the right trees in the right places in Detroit not only improves air quality — it helps neighborhoods stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, reducing energy costs for the city’s residents. It’s a win for all of us.”

While the initiative was officially launched with an event on Oct. 11, planting began in late September, with 200 trees planted before the event even began. The trees are sourced from a nursery based in Detroit and are planted and maintained by Detroit residents hired and trained by the DTEP, ensuring the benefits of the program reach far beyond just the neighborhoods where trees are planted.

“For me, it’s an opportunity to go forward in my life,” said Alex Rosario from Greening of Detroit, who works planting and maintaining trees for the DTEP, said. “It’s an opportunity to grow in knowledge and the opportunity is so awesome.”
The DTEP is starting as a five-year pilot but plans to continue beyond the initial 75,000 tree goal, growing the city’s tree canopy and investment into a cleaner future for everyone.

“It really does exemplify our purpose which is we improve lives with our energy,” Norcia said. “Planting trees in areas where there are tree inequities can really go at our purpose…. The idea of beautifying Detroit as well as the environmental benefits of planting trees – the cooling benefits as well as the carbon capture benefits – just create a lot of inspiration and excitement for us to really move forward with this exciting project.”

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