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Bloomington receives urban forestry grant


Students Nelson Keller and Samiha Hamding help pull purple wintercreeper in Dunn Woods on Saturday. The plant is an invasive species that covers the ground and disrupts native biodiversity. Annie Garau Buy Photos

Tiffany Arp, community and urban forestry coordinator for IDNR, said Bloomington was one of three cities to receive the highest award for this grant category: tree planting projects that target environmental issues. The other cities were Fort Wayne and Kendalville. 

“Every community applying to IDNR’s Urban Forestry grant program may apply for funds up to $12,500,” Arp said. “Bloomington put together a strong grant application, and we had the grant dollars available to fully fund their request.”

The goal of the intended projects is to remove trees that have attracted beetles known as emerald ash borers, which are detrimental to the trees they infest.

The fear, Arp said, is that the EAB infestation might lead to a larger invasion if left uncontrolled. The Division of Forestry hopes to remove 400 of the 800 infected trees around Bloomington and to replant 100 new trees in their place in the next five years.

Arp said the personal goal of IDNR is a broad one, involving educating the public and steering environmental efforts in the right direction.

“The mission of IDNR is to protect, enhance, preserve and wisely use natural, cultural and recreational resources for the benefit of Indiana’s citizens through professional leadership, management and education,” Arp said.

Bloomington’s Urban Forester Lee Huss worked alongside IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs instructor Burney Fischer and graduate student Rachael Bergman to write the proposal for this year’s grant. Huss said he worked with SPEA graduate students in the past to build proposals for the city.

“The grant is very simple,” Huss said. “Create a project that meets IDNR Forestry’s criteria, produce matching funds and complete the project by the due date.”

Bergman, who is currently working on dual master’s of public affairs and science in environmental science, said the team used the previous year’s proposals as models but added her research to strengthen the arguments.

“I have taken Burney’s Urban Forest Management class, as well as worked with his research group for over a year, so I have a strong background in urban forestry that I utilized in writing the grant,” Bergman said. “In writing the grant, I utilized information about the effects of emerald ash borer and the importance of managing against this invasive pest.”

The decision process was not a simple task, Arp said. The group judging the grant proposals this year included representatives from the Indiana Urban Forest Council, utility forestry, private industry, IU Bloomington faculty and IDNR staff.

“The reviewers scored the grants they reviewed, and, based on those scores, the grants were ranked from highest to lowest,” Arp said. “We then award grant funds until we ran out of money.”

Huss said he hopes that, following the success of these projects, the IDNR will accept another proposal in subsequent grant years.

“When the city successfully accomplishes this task, we might be eligible to repeat this project the next time IDNR grant funds are available,” Huss said.

Bergman said she was honored Huss considered her a benefit to the Parks and Recreation department.

“I really enjoyed working with Lee,” Bergman said. “He has a lot of good ideas for urban forestry improvement projects in Bloomington, is invested in the city’s status of Tree City USA and understands the best management practices necessary to keep Bloomington’s trees healthy, including removing ash trees to protect against emerald ash borer.”

Follow reporter Sanya Ali on Twitter @siali13.

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