SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — 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 McCabe announced Dec. 30. South Orange is the only municipality in Essex County to be selected to receive a grant; the village will receive a reforestation and tree-planting grant for $9,000.
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 said. “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,” DEP Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources Ray Bukowski said. “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.”
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.
“A comprehensive local urban and community forestry program provides environmental, social and economic benefits,” said 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.”