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Green grant funds flow into county


GALLATIN—What do erecting a deer exclosure in Gallatin, building a pollinator trail in Philmont and planting trees in Hudson have in common? Yes, all are spring activities. More importantly, all three are projects to which Ecological Restoration Grants (ERGs) have just been awarded by Partners for Climate Action (PCA), a recently-formed non-profit organization based in Chatham.

PCA is dedicated to supporting regional ecological leadership by empowering and inspiring Hudson Valley community organizations—be they towns, counties, non-profits, youth groups or libraries—to improve the local environment, according to PCA Co-Founder Bob Dandrew. The ERGs are intended to support and enable such efforts.

More than $2.6 million in proposals were submitted for the inaugural round of restoration grants, and $350,000 was awarded to 17 recipients, five of them in Columbia County. All of the projects are expected to have visible results within a year.

The Town of Gallatin was awarded $1,500 with which its Conservation Advisory Council hopes to demonstrate a process for managing the destructive deer browse and to restore native understory plant and tree species at the Gallatin Conservation Area, which until the 1990s was the municipal dump and now, reborn, houses a small trail system.

As Eli Arnow, chair of the council, explained, climate change means that plants and trees must move in order to adapt to the warmer climate. Deer, whose population has exploded in the past 80 years, prevent that by literally eating much of the forest understory of plants and saplings. What remains is often inbred, and less healthy as a result, and the understory lacks crucial genetic diversity.

Mr. Arnow, who has a masters degree in Environmental Science, focused on ecological restoration, explained that Gallatins project has a two-pronged approach. First, volunteers will build a deer exclosure specially-designed but low-cost fencing aimed at keep the deer out of the area while allowing for tree growth. Invasive interlopers, like Japanese barberry, that have taken over the enclosed space will be removed.

Second, keystone species, like willows and pink azalea that flower early and thus are key hosts to pollinators that are in steep decline, will be planted, along with oak and maple. Without this native species planting, the cleared area would not be restored to a diverse ecology.

The project is designed to demonstrate a tactic that can readily be implemented by homeowners and other groups.

In Philmont the municipal library was granted nearly $12,000 to establish the Philmont Pollinator Pathway. With volunteer help, local species will be planted in habitat gardens that will be established at the library and four other public spaces on Main Street and at Summit Lake to attract butterflies, insects, bees and birds. In addition, three-to-five front-yard gardens will be auctioned off to homeowners who commit to maintain them.

A printed brochure and site-specific educational signage will also be created.

Every tree/garden planted through the project must have the homeowner’s commitment to its maintenance.

Three-fourths of the worlds flowering plants and about one-third of the worlds crops are dependent on pollinators to reproduce. A recent survey showed that 38-60% of New Yorks native pollinators are at risk of elimination.

Pollinator resilience depends on corridors that support forage and shelter—which is too often fragmented by residential and other growth. Pollinators co-exist well with urban life as long as there are plots and patches mixed in for them to visit, which the Philmont project will provide.

In addition, the library will use the funds to expand its Library of Local books collection—a climate action book collection also established with help from PCA and its Tool Shed, a garden tool lending program that includes everything from a rototiller to drills to spades. Any holder of a library card can borrow one without charge. In collaboration with the Art School of Columbia County, a botanical sketching program will also be offered.

In Hudson, the Conservation Advisory Council was awarded more than $32,000 to install 25 mature trees as well as understory plantings across each of the city’s wards. The installations will serve numerous ecological needs.

Currently, stormwater runoff from the paved sidewalks and streets of Hudson flows directly to the river, carrying pollution with it. The CAC will be planting in large beds (3’ x 6-8’) that will take up some of the runoff, using species like tupelos, oaks, maples, and lindens that like “wet feet” and act as sponges. The trees selected will mainly be native, of types that can handle pollution and that have high branching habits, to offer maximum shade and also avoid leaf litter on the streets.

Smaller ornamentals, like crabtrees, lilac and dogwood, will be used under utility lines where needed.

The trees will also provide shade for pedestrians; relieve the heat island effect created by impermeable surfaces (cement sidewalks and roadways); sequester carbon; and release oxygen, helping to mitigate warming as well as respiratory conditions like asthma that are known to be highest in dense urban areas.

A 2022 inventory of Hudson’s trees found that, outside of the cemetery, the city is lacking in a successful urban tree canopy, and especially within those areas that have a higher proportion of low-income residents. The tree planting project will be an important step toward creating an equitable green infrastructure in the city.

The trees will not be saplings; rather, the goal is to source 10-15-year-old, mature and stable specimens, with caliper measurements of 2”-3”. Calipers are used to measure the side-to-side dimensions of a tree. A 2”-3” tree is sturdy. Their rootballs will weigh 200-300 pounds, so machinery and skilled landscapers will be employed to plant them. Volunteers will help plant the rain gardens beneath them.

Britt Zuckerman is a landscape architect who sits on Hudson’s Conservation Advisory Council and lives in Hudson. Though employed with the national landscape group Dirtworks Landscape Architecture, she helped design the group’s proposal. She noted that there is currently a shortage of suitable trees, nationwide. During the pandemic, many homeowners turned their attention to gardening, reducing stocks. In addition, years of climate change and recent, massive storms in growing areas like Texas and Florida, and restrictive immigration policies that have excluded skilled labor, have all contributed to the reduced availability of inventory.

By city law the sidewalks abutting a home are not owned by the City of Hudson. Every tree/garden planted through the project must have the homeowner’s commitment to its maintenance. This makes planting at rental sites challenging. Ms. Zuckerman and the Council are currently interviewing, and seeking, prospective site-owners.

Two other grants were awarded to county groups: In Hudson, Kite’s Nest was awarded $34,755. A .73 acre site on Front Street that had been a fuel tank storage area will be restored and replanted. The groups teen-led community compost operation will be expanded. As a result, Kite’s Nest’s outdoor learning environment will be extended, as will its partnerships with the Hudson City School District and Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood.

The Town of Canaan was awarded $6,000 to undertake the restoration of the 7-acre town park, by removing invasive species and planting wildflowers and shade trees and by weeding water chestnuts out of the park pond.

PCA hopes that these projects, as well as the dozen funded in Dutchess, Greene, Putnam and Ulster counties, will act as a catalyst to communities to undertake similar, as well as new and innovative, projects to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The group also hopes to expand its donor base to allow for even more significant and widespread grants in the future.

To volunteer to help, or for more information about, the projects, you can contact: (Gallatin); ; (Hudson trees);; ;

at PCA:

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