The National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service are pleased to announce the 2021 Urban Forest Resilience grant recipients.
WASHINGTON—The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) are pleased to announce the selection of funded projects for the 2021 State Urban Forest Resilience (SUFR) Grant Initiative.
In their efforts to address the broad impacts of forest pest outbreaks in communities across the United States, state and territorial forestry agencies submitted funding proposals to the Forest Service for projects aimed at improving urban forest health readiness, response, and restoration. Eighteen project proposals that clearly demonstrated a need for funding assistance and included outcomes that aligned with FY 2021 Congressional Directive HR 116‐448 “Urban Reforestation” priorities were chosen to receive support.
“Healthy, actively managed urban forests build community resilience to climate change, improve access to community programming, address issues of inequity, and bolster public health initiatives,” said Keith Wood, staff for the NASF Urban and Community Forestry Committee. “This year’s SUFR projects will improve urban forest health and enhance the many benefits of community forests across 19 states and the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam.”
“It was of particular importance to the Forest Service that the 2021 SUFR grants went to help cities and towns most affected by the emerald ash borer (EAB). For this reason, 80% of the funding was awarded to address ash canopy loss,” said Beattra Wilson, the Forest Service’s national lead on Urban and Community Forestry. “Another $500,000 was made available to parts of the country not yet impacted by EAB, but still in need of urban reforestation, canopy restoration, and ongoing tree care.”
These grantee projects address the critical need to restore and improve urban forests due to catastrophic losses from EAB through tree planting in urban communities where trees are critical to human health and mitigating the effects of climate change. They are:
Montana’s urban forest equity initiative will utilize a three-prong approach: 1) establishing local growth space for plant propagation, 2) creating and utilizing maps that prioritize disadvantaged neighborhoods, and 3) providing focused outreach and education for tree equity. This $94,000-grant will be targeted in high-risk neighborhoods to help alleviate the effects of climate change, improve health equity, and maximize the benefits of urban forests for all.
EAB is well established in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. The cities of Overland Park and Bonner Springs are severely impacted with significant canopy loss. This $120,000-grant will help Kansas City mitigate the loss of canopy with the planting of 500 trees in heavily impacted, racially diverse, economically challenged, and underserved neighborhoods and public properties where trees are most needed. In replacing lost canopy cover with drought- and pest-tolerant species, this project will help to build canopy biodiversity and resilience, benefitting the health and well-being of the 207,036 residents and more than two million people in the metropolitan area.
This $250,000-grant will help three Region 2 states—Nebraska (NE), South Dakota (SD), and Wyoming (WY)—to proactively and collaboratively respond to community forest threats, benefitting nearly 6.3 million people in more than 1,500 cities and towns. Properly managing existing canopy and planning for the future is critical to the long-term resiliency of community forests. This project will use a two-pronged approach to address this challenge: 1) expanding forest data that can be used at local, state, and regional levels to improve management decisions and 2) improving education and outreach to decision-makers and the many community organizations responsible for the shared stewardship of our community forests. Collaboration is essential to meeting this challenge effectively.
This $57,000-grant will use outreach and education, technology, and citizen science to plant climate-ready tree species, enhance water harvesting, and improve insect and disease readiness in Arizona and New Mexico. The project will address increasing urban heat, extended drought, lack of canopy coverage in low-income areas, and current and emerging insect and disease threats. To achieve these outcomes, existing climate-resilient native tree information will be expanded, a Citizen Forester program will be piloted, and a website and searchable database will be created for use by the general public and municipal foresters. A cohort of Citizen Foresters will be trained on these topics and dispatched into priority low-income, low-canopy areas identified by the Arizona Department of Forestry’s Shade Tree Planting and Prioritization Map.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will partner with Tree Trust, a Minnesota nonprofit, to provide resources for tree planting and career development. The project will improve urban forests and build community resilience to climate change by planting 669 trees in four Twin Cities metropolitan communities and 1,578 new public trees in seven other communities affected by EAB. Trees will be planted in urban areas on public land, with priority given to areas of concern for environmental justice. Monitoring will be frequently conducted by phone and email to ensure that plantings are completed within a year, as stipulated by the $250,000-grant. Foresters will provide compliance checks on all projects.
With their $247,000-grant, The Nature Conservancy, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri (FRM), and Davey Tree Expert Company will establish Treesilience: St. Louis City (TSLC), a tree removal and replanting initiative. Canopy loss due to EAB in St. Louis is imminent. Through public-private partnerships with conservationists, environmental justice organizers, and the public health sector, TSLC will conduct science-based, community-driven, and equitable canopy restoration in underserved areas in three phases. FRM workforce development program participants will support each phase of the three-year initiative: 1) a prioritization strategy and priority list of target neighborhoods where canopy loss and human health challenges are greatest; 2) remove dead/dying trees on public properties; and 3) replant and restore lost canopy.
Within three years of its first detection in Vermont, EAB has reached 18 municipalities within a 10-mile radius of another 135 municipalities. With the $100,000-grant, the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program will design and implement a competitive municipal grant program focused on urban forest canopy enhancement in the face of EAB. Funding will support direct reforestation and interplanting of species other than ash within the public right-of-way or on public land, such as parks and village greens.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will partner with The Greening of Detroit, a non-profit community-based organization, to plant trees in parks and along thoroughfares and neighborhood streets in the cities of Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck. The Greening plans to utilize its professional planting crews and community volunteers (including 900 volunteers for a total of 3,600 total volunteer hours) to implement the project between 2021 and 2022. The $250,000-grant will help to replace the massive number of trees lost to EAB since 2002, in turn helping residents in underserved urban communities realize the benefits of enhanced tree canopy, which include enhanced ecosystem resiliency, greater water and air quality, more beautiful neighborhoods, lower energy consumption, and higher property values.
The Pennsylvania DCNR and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay will use their $220,000-grant to convert approximately 39 acres of lawn on public lands—including public schools and parks (municipal, county, or Commonwealth)—to forests in south-central Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Lawn Conversion Program and Riparian Forest Buffer Program. This project directly addresses the Forest Service and NASF reforestation and forest resilience priorities as it sets out to prevent and address forest pest outbreaks with afforestation projects in municipalities with EAB-caused canopy loss.
Ohio loses over 10,000 acres of urban tree canopy annually to EAB, leaving the most populous cities with a tree canopy below 25%. The communities that have been most affected are low-income communities and communities of color. More frequent and intense weather events have exacerbated the greater health risks and lower quality of life associated with the unequal distribution of urban tree canopy. With its $250,000-grant, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will plant 1,500 trees on public lands, advance its social justice and climate adaptation initiatives, and address several priority issues identified in Ohio’s Forest Action Plan. The department will work in conjunction with community forestry programs and local partners to make informed, science-based decisions for a successful urban reforestation program in Ohio.
With its $50,000-grant, the City of Chicago Bureau of Forestry will conduct a new resource assessment and develop an Urban Forest Management Plan. The last management plan was delivered in 2010 and was paid for by a local non-profit partner, Openlands; the last resource assessment was conducted in 2013. Another local partner, the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, recently completed a Regionwide Urban Forest Assessment that, preliminary, has identified a regional increase in canopy cover from 21% to 23% and a canopy cover decline in the City of Chicago from 17.2% to 15.7%.
EAB has been found in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties and is projected to kill three million ash trees statewide. The 2020 Iowa Forest Action Plan identifies EAB as a major threat to urban forests. The $112,000-grant will be used to provide technical assistance to improve community forests in the most vulnerable areas devastated by EAB. This public lands project has three main objectives: 1) develop management recommendations and plans, 2) conduct education and outreach, and 3) implement replanting programs. Collaborating with partners statewide, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will lead the state in repairing and rebuilding the tree canopy of Iowa, improving the state’s economy, enhancing water quality, and building on existing management strategies.
State Urban Forest Resilience Projects
These grantee projects aim to make urban forests more resilient to invasive pathogens, pests, and environmental stressors through enhanced management. They are:
The Idaho Canopy Pest Preparedness Project will make Idaho’s urban canopies more resilient to native and invasive pests by assisting four urban communities with updating or completing their urban forest inventory through Idaho’s Tree Plotter program. The $55,000-grant will directly: 1) assist four urban communities in developing invasive pest management and storm response plans, 2) provide assistance with MCH applications in North Idaho, and 3) support two invasive pest inventory seminars on Idaho community forestry programs.
Quality plant material availability is a limiting factor for the expansion of the tree canopy in hot arid environments. With its $50,000-grant, the City of Las Vegas will expand their plant material improvement program to upgrade the quality of nursery-sourced desert adapted trees. In turn, this project will help boost the city’s urban tree canopy by 60,000 trees by 2050, mitigating the urban heat island effect, improving air quality, and building community climate resilience. Additionally, the city has committed to educating and supporting residents and residential tree plantings through public outreach campaigns and tree care workshops.
To advance the state’s Forest Action Plan, this $100,000-grant will be used to plant native plants—propagated in the Audubon Center’s native plant nursery—to make lasting improvements to two Los Angeles urban forests: Ascot Hills and Ernest E. Debs Park. This project will improve forest health and climate resiliency, connect at-risk communities to forests, and reduce wildfire risk with the clearing of non-native species. With support of the Audubon Center and guidance of Gabrieliño, Tataviam, Chumash, Nahua, and Zapoteca elders, students will awaken the memory in the land through planting. The project, based in East Los Angeles, will engage youth and families from underserved and low-income communities, like the El Sereno neighborhood, where educational attainment is low. Most (90%) Anahuacalmecac students identify as Indigenous and many meet the definition of at-risk.
This $100,000-grant will help expand pest surveys in Guam’s ports of entry for the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) and other forest pests (like the little fire ant and spotted lanternfly) that have the potential to spread through the Micronesian region. Interdiction and early detection of these invasive species and plant pests are key to successful pest management and safeguarding the region. This project has two primary objectives. The first is to maintain current personnel capacity while expanding the number of target invasive species surveyed at Guam’s two main ports: Port Authority of Guam and the A.B. Wonpat Guam International Airport. The survey data collected will contribute to risk assessments and management plans. The second goal is to replace the trees that once served as CRB breeding sites (and have since been removed) with native non-host trees at the ports. These goals are outlined in Strategy Four of Guam’s Forest Action Plan: “Implement a Forest Health Program and Unify Interagency Efforts to Control Invasive Species.”
Thoughtful tree planting efforts can help address historical inequities and improve the health and well-being of historically underserved community residents. A new tool developed by American Forests, called Tree Equity Score, assesses tree canopy, income, employment, race, age, and surface temperature data and 1) assigns a score at the census block scale and 2) identifies where tree interventions should be prioritized to address inequity. Increases in urban forest canopy can be calculated with the Tree Equity Score Analyzer tool. This project will utilize these two tools and its $100,000-grant to assist two highly vulnerable neighborhoods within two Rhode Island cities.
Managing wildfires is an important issue in the southern region of Puerto Rico (PR). Invasive grass species colonize fire-disturbed areas and serve as wildfire fuels during the dry season, contributing to a wildfire cycle in the same areas year after year. The Guánica Dry Forest (GDF), one of the most visited areas for recreation in southern PR, is comprised of multiple ecosystems affected by anthropogenic activities. Road 333 is the only access to and from coastal recreation areas of the GDF and the coastal communities of San Jacinto and Pitirre. Over the course of decades, more than 25 acres along Road 333 have been lost to this invasive grass-fueled fire cycle. With its $100,000-grant, Protectores de Cuencas, Inc. (PDC) proposes to target at least 10 fire-prone acres along Road 333 for invasive grass eradication and reforestation with 6,000 mature native tree and shrub species. This project aligns with the PR Forest Action Plan goals 1 and 2 of conserving working forest landscapes and protecting forests from harm. Furthermore, PDC will increase environmental stewardship by engaging volunteers from local schools, communities, and organizations in reforestation efforts.
Your state’s Forest Action Plan includes in-depth analysis of forest conditions and trends in your area. Collectively, the states’ Forest Action Plans make up a roadmap for forest management on a national scale.