Towns and cities across Virginia are eligible to apply for a new grant program that will provide up to $10,000 to map, evaluate and plan for conserving their natural resources. As many as 10 localities (or planning district commissions) will be awarded the grants later this year.
With funding provided by the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, grant recipients are required to provide a one to one match of the amount awarded through either a cash or in-kind contribution. The Green Infrastructure Community Planning Grant will be administered by the Green Infrastructure Center and supported by the Virginia Department of Forestry. Deadline to apply for this technical assistance is August 21, 2015.
“We’re looking to help localities create a plan for evaluating their top natural resource assets,” said Karen Firehock, director of the Green Infrastructure Center, which is located in Charlottesville. “These natural assets create healthful communities and sustain local economies. However, if we don’t know where this green infrastructure is located, we can lose it over time.”
Green infrastructure includes the interconnected natural systems in a landscape, such as intact forests, woodlands, wetlands, parks and rivers, and agricultural soils. These natural landscape elements provide clean water, air quality, wildlife habitat and food. In urban areas, they also include tree canopy, streams, wetlands and other open spaces, such as parks and trails.
Firehock said, “Localities can reap many benefits, such as revitalizing a downtown business district, protecting water supplies, identifying new recreational opportunities or informing zoning decisions, from their natural systems if they identify, rank and map them as part of the communities’ infrastructure.”
This planning process will follow the Green Infrastructure Center’s six-step process for creating landscape-scale green infrastructure plans. Such plans can help facilitate development in ways that reduce its impact on the landscape, or to restore environmental functionality where it has been lost.
Firehock said, “People who are concerned about the economy and jobs should be paying attention to green infrastructure. The creative class, which includes artists, media personnel, marketers, lawyers and analysts, makes up 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, and they place a premium on outdoor recreation and access to nature. Additionally, small companies, especially those that have a well-paid and skilled workforce, place a premium on the ‘greenness’ of the local environment. Green infrastructure maps and plans can help localities create better futures by creating a healthier environment that fosters a strong economy.”
Free grant application packets are available via email from [email protected]. Deadline to apply is August 21, 2015.