The National Association of State Foresters and the USDA Forest Service are pleased to announce the 2022 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 2022 State Urban Forest Resilience (SUFR) Grant Initiative.
This year, eleven urban forest resiliency projects across the United States will receive a total of $4 million—$2 million more than the previous funding cycle—to address the catastrophic losses urban forests have sustained due to the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB). Through enhanced tree diversity, tree planting, and the protection of existing trees, these projects will also benefit human health outcomes and mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
“EAB has proven to be one of the most devastating pests to urban forests in the U.S. Today, it has reached 35 states and the District of Columbia,” said Keith Wood, staff for the NASF Urban and Community Forestry Committee. “This year’s SUFR projects will replace and renew urban tree canopy lost to EAB and enhance the many benefits of urban forests across eleven states severely impacted by this pest.”
“It was important for the Forest Service to award the 2022 SUFR grants to cities and towns most affected by EAB,” said Beattra Wilson, the Forest Service’s national lead on urban and community forestry. “EAB has already killed more than 100 million ash trees nationwide; and while we don’t expect to stop the spread of EAB, we can work together across federal, state, and local boundaries to equitably build more resilient community forests capable of withstanding EAB attacks. These 2022 funds will help state forestry agencies assist underserved communities that would not otherwise have the resources to achieve urban reforestation, canopy restoration, and long-term tree care.”
The 2022 projects chosen for award clearly demonstrated a need for funding assistance and included outcomes that aligned with the fiscal year 2022 Congressional Directive, the USDA National Ten-Year Action Plan, and the 59 state Forest Action Plans. Each grant ranged in size from $100,000 to $500,000. Descriptions of each of the eleven selected projects follow:
The Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), founded by The Morton Arboretum, will partner with the City of Chicago and seven community-based organizations in seven under-resourced and under-canopied Chicago neighborhoods severely impacted by EAB. The community organizations and members of Chicago’s Tree Equity Working Group will work through their established networks to help residents understand the value and benefits of trees and provide them with instruction on how to plant and care for trees.
At the outset, the initiative will plant 700 trees in locations where trees are typically not requested, but where residents have committed to caring for them long term. CRTI will inventory and monitor the trees for years to come, and will work to streamline a street tree request process that prioritizes replacing trees lost to EAB in areas most in need. The CRTI will administer the grant and work with the community groups to provide training, resources, and tools, and the City of Chicago will provide and plant the trees.
In 2019 when the EAB Domestic Quarantine was discontinued, Colorado’s capacity to coordinate cross-boundary and interagency EAB control efforts suffered. As a direct result, the pest—and its catastrophic impacts—spread along the Front Range without delay. The Colorado EAB Response Team will build on recent investments in ash tree inventories, management planning resources, and urban wood utilization capacity to implement a holistic and long-term approach to EAB management in the state. Led by the Colorado State Forest Service, the team will facilitate multi-sector collaboration; serve as a conduit for applying research and best management practices; deliver focused outreach programs; and provide financial resources to communities that are working to mitigate hazards and build resilience in their urban forests.
EAB has been found in 87 of Iowa’s 99 counties and will eventually kill an estimated 3 million ash trees statewide. The 2020 Iowa Forest Action Plan identifies invasive insects, including EAB, as a major threat to urban forests. This project will provide technical assistance to improve community forests in the most vulnerable and significant areas devastated by EAB with three primary tactics: management recommendations and plans, education and outreach, and replanting programs on public and private lands. Collaborating with partners statewide through the work laid out in this grant, the Iowa DNR will lead the state in rebuilding the tree canopy of Iowa. This work will improve tree equity, adaptation to climate change, and urban forestry buoyancy hand-in-hand with all the state’s tree stakeholders to create EAB-resilient urban forests.
Detroit was the epicenter of the EAB infestation that began in 2002. Compounded by a national recession, the city’s bankruptcy, and chronic underinvestment in the community’s tree canopy, Detroit’s urban forest was left in a ruinous state. Then came a collaborative, citywide plan to reforest the Motor City: the Detroit Tree Equity Partnership. This project initiates the comprehensive work of community engagement, planning, and implementation necessary to restoring Detroit’s urban forest and achieving social equity, climate-change resilience, and quality of life goals. Ultimately, the success of this project will help create a new approach to urban forestry management that is relevant and replicable not only in Detroit but throughout the U.S.
EAB was first found in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2009 and has since spread to 31 of Minnesota’s counties. There are nearly 1 billion ash trees in Minnesota, and 1 in 5 trees in Minnesotan cities and towns is an ash tree. In the Twin-Cities metro area, communities have been combatting EAB for many years already, and ongoing hazardous ash removal costs have created financial tipping points where tree planting can’t be done without grant support. Not only is Minneapolis–Saint Paul the most populous area of Minnesota—with significant areas of concern for environmental justice—it is also where the greatest urban catastrophic losses due to EAB have and continue to occur.
This project is a scalable, two-pronged approach to increasing tree canopy cover through tree planting. With the help of partners, this grant will assist residents in increasing canopy cover on private land by providing education and over 5,000 subsidized trees to seven Twin-Cities urban communities, prioritizing areas of concern for environmental justice. The project will also collaborate directly with four of the same cities to improve urban forests and build community resilience to climate change by planting 2,950 trees on public land.
This project—set in the City of Lincoln, Nebraska—takes a holistic and collaborative approach to addressing the challenge of EAB, particularly in low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods and among underserved residents. The project will: 1) remove and replace ash trees, 2) help implement an ash treatment program to retain high-quality ash trees growing on private LMI properties, and 3) plant and establish street trees and increase canopy in LMI neighborhoods.
New York state has once again been hit with a disastrous invasive tree pest. At the onset of Dutch elm disease in 1921, communities across the state began removing elm trees and replacing them with ash trees. Now, and ever since EAB was first identified in New York in 2009, those ash trees—planted along streets and found in woodlands adjacent to roads across the state—are at risk, too.
Urban and community forest canopy is an important factor in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Urban forest resources also provide social, environmental, and human health benefits. Areas of the state that have had historically low canopy cover are the same areas identified as needing greater opportunities for environmental justice. EAB (and subsequent loss of ash trees) exacerbates inequity in these areas. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s project will support grants that help local municipalities replant trees after EAB infestations in neighborhoods where greater environmental justice outcomes are desired.
At the height of Ohio’s EAB infestation, the state lost over 10,000 acres of urban tree canopy each year. This decline left the state’s most populous cities with canopy cover below 25%; it also disproportionately affected underserved neighborhoods, exacerbated health risks, and lowered quality of life for residents.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Urban Reforestation Grant Program will help Ohio communities most in need of canopy enhancements by helping them plan, organize, fund, and implement reforestation projects. ODNR will advance local social justice and climate adaptation initiatives and address several priority issues identified in Ohio’s Forest Action Plan by planting over 3,400 trees on public and private lands. ODNR’s success with statewide grant programs—coupled with its solid partnerships with local organizations and access to quality data for informed, science-based decision-making—sets the stage for a successful urban reforestation program in Ohio.
This project will help Philadelphia and Pittsburgh replant more diverse tree species after EAB devastated both cities’ tree canopy. TreeVitalize partners are engaging environmental justice communities to create new opportunities for planting in underserved areas. Treatments of existing ash trees and removals of dead ash over the course of the project will build trust in these communities and make room for the planting of over 1,000 trees over the next three years.
This grant will also make 360 pit cuts in Philadelphia to help reduce impervious surfaces and create more opportunities for environmental justice communities to replant. And in both cities, it will help create a more climate resilient urban canopy through a diverse species palette, in turn helping to reduce urban heat island effect, increase stormwater retention, and provide community cohesion through tree planting efforts.
Since 2002 when EAB was discovered in the U.S., the pest has had a dramatic impact on urban and community forests across the nation. Attempts at containment and eradication have resulted in millions of ash trees being removed or destroyed at a significant cost to communities and residents. EAB arrived in North Texas around 2016. Tree deaths—and the loss of critical benefits and services that those trees provided—were exacerbated by climate change and posed significant and particular concern to those living in under-resourced, historically underserved neighborhoods.
This project will leverage previous and ongoing federal investments in Urban Tree Improvement Projects and Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) to establish climate-ready trees in under-resourced landscapes. The Texas A&M Forest Service will utilize data sources such as Urban FIA, Tree Equity Scores, and Urban Tree Canopy geospatial layers to identify these priority areas. In total, the project will mitigate the impacts of EAB and climate change while simultaneously providing equitable human health benefits and building urban forest resiliency throughout Texas.
Four years since it was first detected in Vermont, EAB is now confirmed in 35 municipalities statewide. A further 167 municipalities (or approximately 80% of municipalities in the state) are within a 10-mile radius of a known infestation. Through this project, the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program will continue to support communities in addressing the impacts of EAB in three ways: direct funding to municipalities for reforestation through a competitive grant program, provide data analysis and strategic planning for targeted technical assistance, and engage with non-traditional program partners to expand support for underserved audiences.
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.