The city of Chattanooga has been awarded a grant of $6 million from the United States Department of Agriculture for partnering with stakeholders in disadvantaged communities to grow and maintain urban forests, green space and waterways. Using this grant, the city will be able to fund development and maintenance of trees, parks and greenery over a five-year period and with no additional costs required from the city.
The city will partner with UTC’s Interdisciplinary Geospatial Technology Lab, green|spaces, and the Southeast Conservation Corps to fund new staff positions split between the city and non-profit partners and to coordinate a community-driven effort to improve urban environment, develop the green workforce, and raise public awareness of trees and their benefits.
“Chattanooga’s outdoors and natural beauty are among our city’s strongest assets, and this is a tremendous boon to the investments that the city and our local partners are already making to ensure that every neighborhood can share in the benefits of urban tree canopy cover,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.
The grant, which totals more than $1 billion nationwide, was made available through the USDA Forest Service and granted to cities with the intention of being spent in traditionally disadvantaged neighborhoods. The USDA’s Urban & Community Forestry Program was created to encourage cities to promote increased equitable access to urban tree canopy, which has an inherent and direct association on the environmental quality, economy, and health of people who live in these areas.
The City’s Urban Forestry team used data from a UTC tree canopy study and from the White House’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to identify high-priority areas. Identified neighborhoods make up about seven out of nine districts of Chattanooga’s City Council. These neighborhoods will be the entire focus of this grant-funded project, meaning there will be no money required to be spent by the city.
“Our city staff work tirelessly to preserve the beauty that Chattanooga is known for, which we know is one of the top reasons people choose to visit the city and make it their new home,” said Chattanooga City Forester Pete Stewart. “This funding will allow us to continue and expand that work in a way that will make a real impact in neighborhoods that need it the most.”
Anna Mathis, Parks and Outdoor’s Natural Resources manager, adds that “these efforts are designed to close disparities in tree canopy and correlated measures of ecosystem and public health, all while developing a workforce that will ensure the health of our urban ecosystem for years to come.”
The grant will be able to fund:
An expanded tree inventory, urban forest management planning.
Tree watering, young tree maintenance, and invasive removal in park areas.
Enhancement of riparian zones.
Remote sensing imagery acquisition and processing through UTC’s IGT Lab.
Graduate student funding for environmental analysis.
New urban forestry staff through the city Department of Parks and Outdoors to manage grant reporting, volunteer efforts, and contract work.
New staff at green|spaces for community engagement, planting logistics, and organizing the volunteer-driven efforts.
A specialized team through the Southeast Conservation Corps for chainsaw training and herbicide certification.
A skilled crew focused on invasive, riparian, and planting work.
Support for the Southeast Conservation Corps to direct crews and facilitate the process.
Once the grant period is over, green|spaces has committed to transforming the team created using this grant into a designed non-profit, where this work will continue. The city will re-evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of this grant on a yearly basis and as needed.