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By Michael J. Billoni
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) awarded the Town of Grand Island $50,000 for a tree inventory and management plan that Town Highway Superintendent Richard Crawford said is of “critical importance to our future forestry and conservation projects.”
The grant, announced by DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, was part of $1.4 million in urban forestry projects across the state to help communities’ inventory, plant and maintain public trees. The grants are part of DEC’s urban and community forestry program, which works to increase public awareness of the importance of trees and helps communities develop and implement comprehensive tree management plans to create healthy forests while enhancing quality of life for residents.
Other Erie County entities to receive grant funding include the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy Inc. ($75,000, tree maintenance), Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County ($22,342, education) and the Village of Depew ($25,617, tree inventory and management plan).
“We are thrilled with the DEC announcement that Grand Island is the recipient of this forestry grant, which will assist us in developing a tree inventory, increase public awareness of the importance of trees in our community, and assist in the removal of dead trees on town properties,” said Town Supervisor John C. Whitney, P.E.
Crawford said the town will do a comprehensive inventory of trees located within the right-of-way of all town-owned streets and lightly forested town parks, covering approximately 60 linear miles. Through a bidding process, the town will hire a firm of certified arborists to survey and identify the species, health and maintenance needs of all trees within the scope of the project. This inventory will be incorporated into the town’s GPS database and will be utilized by consulting arborists to develop a future community forestry plan.
“A well-executed tree inventory and forestry management plan is of critical importance,” Crawford said. “The project will include areas of design, selection and planting programs, disease and insect mitigation that all rely on accurate inventory data. The completion of this tree inventory will also allow the town to apply for additional grant dollars in the future.”
Crawford is working with the Grand Island Conservation Committee to manage the grant program, which he said he hopes to begin in late spring or early summer. The members include Diane Evans, Sue Tomkins, Dave Cole and Dave Pratt.
Due to blight, ash borer and future diseases to trees, Crawford said the town became serious about securing grants and creating the necessary steps to implement proactive plans. Securing this DEC inventory grant is the first step, with the second phase and beyond being the creation of a community forest management plan to re-tree on the Island.
Crawford said many of the trees that are currently being cut down on the Island are being done through a National Grid program to get them below the power lines to avoid the lines coming down during a storm.
In the DEC release announcing the grant, Seggos said: “Healthy community forests provide a host of environmental, economic and social benefits, including wildlife habitat, watershed protection, flood reduction, increased property values and improved public health. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is investing in the health of New York’s communities through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, providing crucial assistance for our state’s vital forests to thrive.”
The 38 projects throughout the state to receive funding were selected from a total of 154 applications, ranked by cost effectiveness, lasting benefits, use of partnerships, inclusion of outreach and education, and support from local stakeholders. The urban forestry grants complement DEC’s ongoing initiatives to address invasive species, climate change, environmental degradation, environmental justice and urban sprawl. Over the past nine years, New York has funded more than $11.4 million in grants to support projects with a total value of more than $18.3 million.