Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grants to Support Climate Resilience

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the 2014 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients. The grants provide funding that will help enhance urban forest stewardship, support new employment opportunities, and help build resilience in the face of a changing climate. Close to 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas and depends on the essential ecological, economic, and social benefits provided by urban trees and forests. Climate and extreme weather events pose threats to urban trees and forests requiring increased investment in management, restoration and stewardship.

“Our urban and community forests provide clean water, clean air, energy conservation and other important benefits for the health and economic well-being of communities across the country,” said Vilsack. “The grants announced today will help catalyze investment and strengthen stewardship of our urban forests to maintain their many contributions amid new risks from climate change.”

In the United States alone, urban trees store over 708 million tons of carbon and can help further reduce emissions by lowering electricity demand for summer air conditioning and winter heating. Well maintained urban forests can help address climate and extreme weather impacts through reducing runoff, buffering high winds, controlling erosion, and minimizing the impacts of drought. Urban forests also provide critical social and cultural benefits that may strengthen community resilience to climate change through promoting social interaction and community stability.

The grant proposals were recommended by the Secretary’s National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council and will address urban forest resiliency to extreme weather events and the long-term impacts of climate change; strategies for bolstering green jobs; and opportunities to use green infrastructure to manage and mitigate stormwater and improve water quality.

Today’s announcements were made in connection with the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and support the plan’s objectives of maintaining the role of forests in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing communities for the impacts of a changing climate. Over the past year, USDA has announced numerous initiatives in support of the President’s Climate Action Plan including the availability of over $320 million for renewable energy and energy efficiency investments and the launch of the first ever Regional Hubs that will help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners get the information and data they need to make informed decisions in response to a changing climate. USDA has also led efforts to address risks and support recovery from severe wildfire and drought and has provided over $740 million in assistance and disaster relief to support communities and producers impacted by drought thus far in 2014. In addition, through the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA will invest $880 million dollars towards renewable energy production such as wind and solar, advanced biofuel production, energy efficiency for rural small businesses and farms as well as research and development for fuels and products that replace petroleum and other energy-intensive products.

The 2014 grant recipients are:

Category 1: Making Urban Trees and Forests More Resilient to the Impacts of Natural Disasters and the Long-term Impacts of Climate Change

University of Florida, Mobile Tree Failure Prediction for Storm Preparation and Response;

Federal Grant Amount: $281,648

This proposed modeling system will assist urban forest managers in predicting tree failure during storms by developing a data collection model and a mobile Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping application to quantify tree risk in communities. The results and a best management practices manual will be made available to all researchers and professionals through the International Tree Failure Database, providing the standardized data needed to enhance our understanding of wind-related tree failure.

Category 2: Green Infrastructure Jobs Analysis

Jobs for the Future, Jobs for the Future Green Infrastructure Jobs Analysis

Federal Grant Amount: $175,000

Jobs for the Future will conduct a labor market analysis that will build a business case for important green infrastructure investments in our communities. This will include strategies for expanding green infrastructure job growth in both the private and public sectors.

Category 3: Utilizing Green Infrastructure to Manage and Mitigate Stormwater to Improve Water Quality

University of South Florida, From Gray to Green: Tools for Transitioning to Vegetation-Based Stormwater Management

Federal Grant Amount: $149,722

Many communities lack systematic strategies to transition from the existing conventional (gray) drainage systems to green infrastructure. This project will provide natural resource managers, planners, and engineers with decision-support tools to aid the strategic planning process for transitioning to green infrastructure systems that emphasize trees and urban forests.

University of Tennessee, Storm Water Goes Green: Investigating the Benefit and Health of Urban Trees in Green Infrastructure Installations

Federal Grant Amount: $200,322

The contribution of trees to storm water management is not well understood. Project will demonstrate the role of trees in bio retention areas and provide recommendations regarding system design and tree species selection to maximize bio retention area functionality and tree health.

Center for Watershed Protection, Making Urban Trees Count: A Project to Demonstrate the Role of Urban Trees in Achieving Regulatory Compliance for Clean Water Research

Federal Grant Amount: $103,120

Project will assist storm water managers with how to “credit” trees for runoff and pollutant load reduction in order to compare with other best management practices. A proposed design specification model for urban tree planting will address crediting, verification, cost-effectiveness, and tree health.

For more information about the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, please visit www.fs.fed.us/ucf/nucfac.html.