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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces 2016 National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grants

WASHINGTON, JULY 21, 2016 AT 1:30 PM EDT - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the 2016 USDA Forest Service's National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $900,000 in funding to four goal recipients who will demonstrate how healthy urban forests can increase public health benefits, improve development and redevelopment efforts, and contribute to urban food production

"Urban forests are integral to strong, vital, and healthy communities, enriching the lives of the more than 80 percent of Americans who live in cities and towns," said Vilsack. "The grants announced today will make important strides in innovative research and community projects that will help keep our urban forests valuable contributors to our daily lives."   

“As our urban communities grow and  confront rapid development and climate change, urban trees will be more important than ever by  providing  rich habitats, capturing storm water and helping provide clean air and water,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.  The grant recipients will help to improve the public’s health, well-being and create resilient ecosystems for present and future generations.”

The grant recipients, whose work will highlight the economic and social value of urban forests, are committing an additional $1.1 million to their projects bringing the total investment through this project to $2 million. 

In the United States alone, urban trees store over 708 million tons of carbon, which is equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from about 500 million automobiles. Urban trees help further reduce emissions by lowering electricity demand for summer air conditioning and winter heating. Well-maintained urban forests can help address climate and extreme weather impacts by reducing storm water runoff, buffering high winds, controlling erosion and minimizing the impacts of drought. Urban forests also provide critical social and cultural benefits providing places for people to recreate and gather with their communities.

The U.S. Forest Service, together with many partners, plays a pivotal role in ensuring urban and community forests continue to provide their life enriching benefits. In partnership with state forestry agencies, the Forest Service helps over 7,000 communities to plan, manage, and grow urban forests through the Urban and Community Forestry Program and the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council’s Ten Year Action Plan

The 2016 grant recipients and amounts are:

State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry,

A Decision Support System to Develop, Analyze, and Optimize Urban and Community Forests: $285,340 to create a decision support system for i-­Tree Landscape to allow forest managers and planners to achieve desired benefits and service from urban and community forests. Developed by the Forest Service, i-Tree is a ground-breaking interactive web tool helping communities identify and make the most of their urban trees.

Earth Learning, Inc., Community Food Forestry Initiative: $175,627

to address tree canopy loss due to re-development by providing planners, decision-makers, and designers  with a comprehensive set of resources to integrate food-producing trees and plants into the urban landscape. 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, Urban Forestry’s Return On Investment Tying Residential Nature To Health Care Expenditures: $278,383 to document the effects of urban and community forests on health care savings by examining the impacts of urban forests on major U.S. population groups, particularly the underserved, giving the findings direct relevance to communities across the nation.

Georgia State University, The Impact of Natural Environments on Symptom Expression in Children with Autism$160,650 to research the impact of nature on symptom severity in children with autism. A “Lessons Learned” document will provide best practices for working with children with autism. 

For more information about the National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients, please visit

The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

Distribution channels: Agriculture, Farming & Forestry