BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Congressman Eric Sorensen (D-IL) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Wednesday more trees will be planted in the Bloomington-Normal area to improve air and water quality.

Through grant funds to a Normal-based environmental sustainability agency, more efforts will be able to take place in the area to increase the resident’s air quality as well as many other things.

With grant funds of nearly half a million dollars from the EPA’s Environment Justice Collaborative Problem Solving (EJCPS) program, the trees will also protect residents from the summer heat and lower energy costs.

“Extreme weather has plagued our region, making it difficult for Illinoisans to live comfortably—especially during the summer months,” said Sorensen. “Trees are vital to our communities. They improve air quality, help lower energy costs, sequester carbon, and help prevent flooding by managing stormwater. I am proud to see Ecology Action Center in Normal receive this investment to develop ways to mitigate the impact of extreme weather by growing more trees in Central Illinois so we can build a more sustainable region for future generations.”

The grants were provided to the Ecology Action Center based in Normal to manage the project. Michael Brown, Director of the Ecology Action Center, said the center will lead a partnership with Illinois State University, McLean County Health Department, United Way of McLean County, Bloomington-Normal NAACP, as well as other groups.

The partnership will bring the groups together to identify climate change-related issues in the area. The information gathered will be used to create an EJ Climate Adaptation plan through a stakeholder process, Brown said.

This is not the first time the Ecology Action Center has received funds and used them to plant trees. The center has a goal of planting 10,000 trees per year in the area.

Volunteers assisted the center in planting thousands of trees at the Mohr Tract near Lexington in April 2021.

In April 2022, the center continued a goal to plant 100,000 trees over the next decade.

State Farm employees helped the center plant some trees in April 2023 at the Bloomington Normal Water Reclamation Center. They planted a variety of oaks, icterus, pecans, and other native trees. Brown said if they are healthy, the trees can last hundreds of years.

The Ecology Action Center has been planting trees in the Bloomington-Normal area for several years and looks to do it for many years to come. The grants announced by Sorensen will continue to help the center complete its goal of planting 10,000 trees per year over the next several years.

To learn more about the center and its tree-planting initiative, visit its website.