LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The UNLV-led Las Vegas Urban Forest Center received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Forest Service to help counteract the growing impacts of extreme heat.
“Las Vegas is one of the fastest warming cities in the country,” explained Alison Sloat, associate professor at UNLV’s College of Sciences. “It’s increased in temperature by 8 degrees since 1970 and because of that we have one of the worst urban heat island effects in the country.”
Heat islands are urbanized areas emitting higher temperatures due to black asphalt and other structures.
You may notice it walking on the Strip or downtown and even in your neighborhood.
UNLV student Nathaniel Church lives in Sunrise Manor and is learning about this study.
“From my area, my neighborhood we have a 24% tree coverage so we’re doing pretty good,” said Church.
UNLV is one of seven U.S. Forest grant recipients in Nevada. In total, the U.S. Forest Service is investing $1 billion for nearly 400 projects nationwide through its Urban and Community Forestry Program.
“We’ve been working with the Nature Conservancy and other groups to try to figure out how many trees are needed to help mitigate the urban heat island effect in Las Vegas,” Sloat explained.
As the project lead, she said this program is expected to last five years, also educating the community and targeting schools about the importance of planting trees.
“We will grow and plant these trees and educate certified arborists in training who will help take care of these trees in the decades to come,” Sloat added.
The arborists and other volunteers will plant trees in the neighborhoods surrounding UNLV, in East Las Vegas, the Historic West Side, and parts of North Las Vegas.
UNLV student Claire Martensen is from Illinois and says you can feel weather differences compared to other states.
“If they decreased the amount of cement and increased the amount of organic materials like grass or trees, it could have a very positive impact on that just the amount of heat trapped in the cement but also the amount it floods and there’ll be somewhere for the water to go when it does flood,” Martensen said.
Future trees will be native and drought tolerant as the grant allows community partners to plant in private residences.
The project gets underway in January 2024.
If you would like to volunteer to plant trees contact Alison at email@example.com