TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection is awarding $122,500 in grants to 11 municipalities to promote the stewardship of urban and community trees and forests, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced Dec. 30.
West Cape May will get $10,000 from the Resiliency planning grant program. It is the only municipality in Cape May County to receive funds from this series of grants, and is one of eight statewide to receive a Resiliency grant.
According to a release, the New Jersey Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program has been awarding Stewardship Grants since 2000.
The grants provide financial assistance to counties and municipalities statewide to assist in implementing their local Community Forestry Management Plans.
“Trees have many vital roles in New Jersey,” McCabe stated. “They fight climate change by sequestering carbon as they grow and provide critical shade as temperatures rise. Trees also are the backdrop for both historic and personal events in our lives, protect us from flooding, stand as environmental health indicators and beautify our neighborhoods. These grants will help continue the important work of protecting and growing our urban and community trees and forests.”
Funding for the 2019 grants comes from the “Treasure Our Trees” state license plate sales and the No Net Loss Compensatory Reforestation program.
“Trees and forests are important to us on so many levels, from helping to reduce greenhouse gases and energy use, thereby lessening the impacts of climate change and strengthening the resilience of our towns and cities, to improving the quality of life for residents, cleaning the air we breathe, providing habitat for wildlife, providing shade and contributing to an overall healthier environment,” stated DEP Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources Ray Bukowski. “It is a priority of the New Jersey Forest Service to not only plant trees in our communities and urban areas, but to ensure their long-term survival through proper planning and management.”
Resiliency planning grants totaling $76,500 have been awarded to eight municipalities: Merchantville Borough, Camden County ($10,000); Byram Township, Sussex County ($10,000); City of Trenton, Mercer County ($10,000); Pennsauken Township, Camden County ($10,000); Teaneck Township, Bergen County ($10,000); Ridgewood Village, Bergen County ($10,000); and Park Ridge Borough, Bergen County ($6,500).
Reforestation and tree-planting grants totaling $46,000 have been awarded to Hightstown Borough, Mercer County ($7,000); East Windsor Township, Mercer County ($30,000); and South Orange Township, Essex County ($9,000).
The grants are used for work on a variety of projects, such as community tree inventories, risk tree assessments, storm assessments, tree planting, and reforestation.
Local governments also use the grants to manage impacts from the emerald ash borer, an invasive tree-killing beetle that is causing widespread losses of ash trees across the nation.
Since its first detection in New Jersey in 2014, the emerald ash borer has been found in 98 municipalities in 15 of the state’s 21 counties.
Grant funding will allow communities to conduct inventories to identify ash trees, develop emerald ash borer mitigation plans and replace removed ash trees with another tree species.
“The emerald ash borer remains the most significant threat to the health, safety, and sustainability of our urban and community forests,” State Forester John Sacco stated. “It is important that each community and property owner act now to address this continuing threat. Proper management is essential because infested trees can eventually become a public safety concern.”
With proper care, trees in community and urban settings can be healthy and live long lives. The New Jersey Urban and Community Forestry program provides the financial and technical assistance communities need to properly manage and care for urban and community trees and forests.
“A comprehensive local urban and community forestry program provides environmental, social and economic benefits,” stated Carrie Sargeant, Urban and Community Forestry Program Coordinator. “Communities that are accredited with the New Jersey Urban and Community Forestry Program have a Community Forestry Management Plan, participate in required training and education programs, and report back to the program on their accomplishments every year.”
At the beginning of this year, 236 municipalities and counties across New Jersey had New Jersey Forest Service-approved Community Forestry Management Plans, 149 of which were fully accredited with the Urban and Community Forestry Program.