Trees Matter gives out free trees to increase Valley canopy coverage – Cronkite News

Photo: Trees Matter Outreach Manager Ariel Stone and Staff Member Omar Gonzales organize willow acacia trees. These are popular in the Valley due to their hardiness and desert-weather tolerance. (Photo by Hunter Fore/Cronkite News)

The Valley-based nonprofit organization Trees Matter helps communities add trees to their neighborhoods.

The organization teamed up with Salt River Project in early October to give free trees to SRP customers in the Maryvale area.

A Trees Matter worker waits to assist a line of cars awaiting free trees. Dozens of Phoenix residents in the Maryvale area came to the distribution event Oct. 7, 2023, at Maryvale High School in Phoenix. (Photo by Hunter Fore/Cronkite News)

Trees Matter holds regular events to promote tree education and tree planting. The tree shade program brings free trees to Valley neighborhoods that are lacking in trees and shade.

Before SRP customers can receive their trees, they must attend a workshop, where they learn about how to plant trees, how to care for them and why it’s important to have increased canopy coverage in their area. Each year, the program distributes over 5,000 trees and educates over 4,000 Valley residents.

“For all of our programs, we focus on areas of the Valley that are in need, that don’t have a lot of canopy coverage,” said Trees Matter Outreach Manager Ariel Stone. “We prioritize these areas first and give out native trees that the residents can easily care for. These adaptive desert plants are low maintenance, able to withstand high temperatures and are perfect for our climate.”

Tree programs help mitigate the Valley’s “heat island” problem, which is where a lack of trees and shade can cause temperatures to be higher in urban areas – from 1 to 7 degrees F hotter than temperatures in outlying areas during the day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Trees Matter events present opportunities for young people, new homeowners and people who may not be able to afford upgraded landscaping to help their communities and properties by adding more foliage.

Trees Matter uses a tool called the Tree Equity Score map, produced by American Forests. The map compares canopy coverage across metro areas and factors in social inequities such as poverty and unemployment for tree equity scores, which tend to be lower in low-income areas.

“We prioritize these areas because they have been disinvested in,” said Trees Matter Planting Program Manager Ali Guttenberg. “In these areas, you’re not seeing the benefit of investment in your community; there’s nowhere to cool off.”

Guttenberg said lower-income communities don’t usually have the funds for parks, green spaces and more trees.

Trees Matter aims to help communities like these with a mission to inspire and promote increased tree canopy coverage in the Valley.

“We have more distribution events coming up and we always need volunteers,” Stone said.

Trees Matter’s next event is shade tree distribution at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus, on Saturday morning. There will also be the shade tree distribution at Mesa Community College on Nov. 18.

Participants must be SRP customers to receive free trees. To sign up as a participant or a volunteer, visit Trees Matter’s website at

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