Maine Secures $3.07M for Tree Stewardship and Grants in Underserved Communities

September 21, 2023

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Augusta, Maine - The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) announced the award of over $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support urban and community forestry projects and workforce development initiatives. This funding is part of President Biden's Investing in America agenda to advance environmental justice, generate economic opportunity, and build a clean energy economy nationwide. The grants are made possible by investments from President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in history.

"Today's announcement marks a significant milestone in our commitment to environmental stewardship and community development," commented DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. "As we invest over $3 million in urban and community forestry projects and workforce development initiatives, we are strengthening the well-being of our community forests and nurturing the growth of forestry careers."

A $1.57 million allocation will fuel a pioneering initiative launched by the Maine Conservation Corps (MCC), enabling the enlisting of five dedicated Community Tree Stewards, who will serve as full-time MCC members over four years.

"The Community Tree Stewards program will provide invaluable hands-on experience and mentorship opportunities for our members as they pursue careers in forestry," said Sara Knowles, Director of the Maine Conservation Corps. "Simultaneously, it will elevate the well-being of community forests, benefiting all residents."

Established in 1983, MCC builds upon the Civilian Conservation Corps legacy by engaging diverse individuals to address pressing conservation needs in Maine communities. Members of MCC develop in-demand skills and work experience while showcasing the power of service and civic engagement. MCC is part of the DACF's Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Project Canopy, a DACF Maine Forest Service (MFS) program, is set to allocate $1.5 million in a competitive subgrant program aimed at municipalities and community organizations. This funding will support the upkeep of public right-of-way and park shade trees, risk mitigation efforts, and replanting initiatives to bolster climate change mitigation and resilience. Key determinants for grant approval will include designations as disadvantaged entities, evidence of pressing needs, proactive urban forest risk planning, community involvement and educational endeavors, and a demonstrated commitment to climate-responsive planning and planting for resilience against pests and storms.

"This significant investment in public funding for community trees will address the 20-year backlog of deferred maintenance of roadside trees in Maine," said Jan Santerre, Project Canopy Coordinator. "The investments will allow communities to build local capacity to understand this resource and plan for ongoing maintenance, growth, and long-term support for care."
According to Maine State Forester and MFS Director Patty Cormier, trees within our urban environments deliver economic, environmental, and social advantages. "Urban forests help mitigate air pollution and stormwater runoff, provide the pivotal role of carbon sequestration, and strengthen local economies."

The Urban and Community Forestry industry contributes $410 million to Maine's economy annually and employs more than 5,000 people, according to a ground-breaking study by the Northeast-Midwest State Foresters Alliance. Trees are estimated to cover 44.9% of Maine's most populous communities, saving them $83.8 million a year by removing air pollutants, stormwater reduction, and carbon sequestration.

Project Canopy will seek input from potential grant recipients on the types of support most needed through a grant survey. The Request for Proposals will be announced by December 1, 2023. Interested parties are encouraged to subscribe to receive Project Canopy updates.