Savannah Tree Foundation Advances Tree Equity in Chatham County

Tree planting and forest management are two climate solutions that can help Georgia achieve our goals. Scaling these solutions can also create jobs and provide other economic benefits in our state.

Read on to learn how the Savannah Tree Foundation (STF) is planting trees to address climate change, create jobs, and advance equity across Chatham County.

Growing Trees Across Georgia with the Savannah Tree Foundation

Savannah Tree Foundation tree planting team

The Savannah Tree Foundation is a 501(c)(3) whose purpose is to protect and grow Chatham County’s urban forest through tree planting, community engagement, and advocacy. Founded in 1982, the Savannah Tree Foundation is the oldest urban and community forestry organization in the State of Georgia and is committed to protecting and nurturing Savannah’s green legacy.

Since its inception, STF has been a beacon of hope for our urban forest, with more than 5,500 trees already planted and countless community members engaged. 

A New Grant Funds Tree Planting for a More Equitable Future in Savannah

In the heart of Chatham County, the STF is dedicated to addressing tree inequality. We're thrilled to announce our recent receipt of the $1 million, 4-year Trees Across Georgia Grant, demonstrating our commitment to fostering a greener, more equitable future for our community.

In recent years, Chatham County has been hit hard by severe storms and rapid development, both of which destroyed our tree canopy and negatively impacted our region’s climate change resilience. 

To combat this tree loss, STF has launched an ambitious new program to promote tree planting in historically underserved communities while empowering individuals from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in arboriculture or related fields.

Creating Forestry Jobs in Savannah

At the core of the Trees Across Georgia grant is our Chatham Canopy Corps program—an initiative aimed at breaking down barriers to employment and promoting diversity in tree care. 

Tree planting volunteers

Supported by the Georgia Forestry Commission, this program empowers individuals who may not have had the opportunity to work in this field before. Through hands-on training in tree care, job readiness, and financial literacy, participants gain valuable skills while contributing to the expansion of Savannah’s canopy.

The program curriculum covers a range of topics, including tree identification and biology, financial literacy, and workplace readiness and safety. Participants receive full-time paid employment and guidance from STF staff and community partners throughout their apprenticeship.

Chatham Canopy Corps Focus on Tree Equity

Community involvement is fundamental to the Chatham Canopy Corps program. The apprentices’ tree planting efforts will focus on historically underserved communities that lack sufficient tree canopy. Some of these neighborhoods have less than 25% the number of trees as their affluent, downtown counterparts. This leads to higher temperatures, more pollution, and less accessible outdoor space.

In many of these targeted neighborhoods, the public right-of-way space is limited, meaning City-led efforts to plant and maintain trees are less effective than in areas with City-controlled tree lawns or medians, such as downtown Savannah. 

Tree Planting Projects and Community Plantings

The Chatham Canopy Corps program will work to address this issue by working with homeowners to plant smaller, 3-7 gallon trees on private property. These trees will require less rigorous maintenance to establish, putting less of a burden on the homeowners. 

The Canopy Corps apprentices will lead these tree planting efforts, with a goal of planting 250+ private property trees per year, in addition to larger, public property plantings.  

Hudson Hill Planting_noise buffer tree line

To jumpstart our efforts, Savannah Tree Foundation has already hosted two community planting events at City of Savannah parks, Westside Park and Hudson Hill. Between the two events, 65 shade trees were planted to enhance public spaces' aesthetic appeal and provide practical benefits such as noise reduction and pollution mitigation.

Become a Canopy Corps Apprentice with the Savannah Tree Project

The first annual cohort of three apprentices will start on June 3rd. We expect a total of four cohorts between now and the end of the grant period in 2027, accounting for 12 apprentices trained and 1,600 new trees planted during that time. Learn more about the Chatham Canopy Corps apprenticeship program, or apply for an apprenticeship on the Savannah Tree Project website.

Looking ahead, Savannah Tree Foundation envisions a future where every neighborhood in Chatham County benefits from the advantages of a vibrant urban forest. With the support of our community and partners, we are confident that together, we can cultivate equity and create a more resilient environment for generations to come.

To learn more about our work and how you can get involved, visit www.savannahtree.org.

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About Author

Zoe Rinker
Zoe Rinker

Zoe Rinker is a Savannah, Georgia, native and Executive Director of the Savannah Tree Foundation, a 501(c)(3) whose purpose is to protect and grow Chatham County’s urban forest through tree planting, community engagement, and advocacy.

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