The Maryland Department of Transportation is “branching out” in its commitment to support the state’s goal of planting five million trees over the next eight years with initiatives that should add thousands of new trees annually statewide via plantings, grants for community-based efforts and programs that encourage support for the Maryland Forest Service.

[Above photo by the Maryland DOT]

The Maryland DOT is one of several state agencies involved in the “Growing 5 Million Trees in Maryland” program; a plan designed to help the state meet its goal to plant and maintain five million native trees in Maryland by the end of calendar year 2031.

The initiative, led by a commission chaired by the Maryland Department of the Environment, stems from the Tree Solutions Now Act, passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021.

“We’re working every day to mitigate and reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation – now and for the future,” Maryland DOT Secretary Paul Wiedefeld recently explained in a statement.

“As we strive to create and maintain a transportation network that’s cleaner and more efficient, our partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders in the ‘5 Million Trees’ initiative will make a generational impact on those goals,” he added.

Maryland DOT noted it routinely plants trees as part of highway, bridge, transit and other projects, but since those plantings largely mitigate the impact of those projects, they don’t count toward the “5 Million Trees” initiative.

However, led by its Office of Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation, the Maryland DOT pointed out that it does conduct other tree planting programs, including:

  • The Urban Tree Grant Program: A Maryland DOT partnership with the Maryland Urban and Community Forest Committee and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, this program awards grants of up to $5,000 for tree plantings and more than $5,000 for pocket forest projects. The grants can be used by nonprofits, schools, local business associations, youth and civic groups and others, and can help areas affected by environmental justice issues or heat island effect – such as urban areas with little tree canopy.
  • The Tree Planting Donation: Operated by the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles, a division of the Maryland DOT, this initiative allows state residents to make a voluntary donation of $1, or more, when registering or renewing a vehicle registration, to the Maryland Forest Service to plant trees.
  • The Urban Forestry Partnership: Overseen by the Maryland Port Administration, another Maryland DOT division this partnership works with communities to restore tree canopy on streets and parks in Baltimore City. Between 2018 and 2020, the Partnership planted 1,500 trees in neighborhoods across Baltimore.​ 

In April, the Maryland Department of the Environment launched an online “tracking tool” and hub site for tree plantings and planting initiatives across Maryland. From community-based projects to agency efforts, the tool will track the trees and the progress toward the “5 Million Trees” goal.

The hub site also provides a resource library that includes tree planting tips and guides, a map of statewide tree planting assistance and rebate programs, and volunteer and training opportunities to get more people involved in tree plantings across Maryland.