Great River Greening’s program—Cooling Minnesota Communities—is a massive tree planting initiative rooted in community-led collaboration, guided by community input, supported by a $10 million, five-year grant from the USDA’s Forest Service, and led by the skilled and experienced Great River Greening (Greening) staff.

Officially launching in 2024, this partnership stretches from southern Minnesota through the urban core to central Minnesota, and includes five cities, three school districts, and five nonprofit agencies. The goal of Cooling Minnesota Communities is to increase equitable access to the urban and community tree canopy, which will be achieved by planting, distributing, and maintaining up to 10,000 trees on city property, school campuses, public housing or community sites, regional parks, and residential homes across five communities identified as in need of tree canopy improvement via the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST).

Greening’s robust volunteer and partner network will drive this effort and provide a model for future environmental and community-led collaborations. Beyond planting, our partners are deeply invested in the hands-on work of watering and tending these trees to ensure that they grow into mature canopies for future generations.

While Great River Greening is proud to accept this Environmental Initiative Award, it is only through the efforts of genuine, passionate, dedicated partners that this work will literally and figuratively, take root.

Cooling Minnesota Communities's Interview

Cooling Minnesota Communities seeks to address several urban environmental issues through the seemingly simple work of improving the urban tree canopy, but the initiative’s approach is highly innovative, collaborative, and multi-faceted. In a well-considered structure, it combines multiple layers and types of work, including tree planting, diseased tree removal, educational partnerships, and employment opportunities, collaborating with diverse community groups as key partners. This work is not only about the physical tending to and planting of trees, but also of increasing relationships within the community and between the community, trees, and the larger urban environment.

Community-led Collaboration Evaluation Team

About the Community-led Collaboration Category

The Community-led Collaboration Award recognizes partnerships engaged in collaborative, replicable endeavors aimed at addressing local sustainability challenges, enhancing community environmental health, or furthering environmental justice. Examples of partnerships include neighborhood-scale initiatives, community-led practices, and environmental stewardship endeavors.

At Barr, we solve complex problems related to the responsible use of natural resources to serve our clients and improve our communities. We are proud sponsors of the Environmental Initiative Awards as they celebrate and promote collaborative environmental projects across Minnesota, reaching statewide, or in this case at the local scale where we live and work.