An article by Sian Cobb The St. Thomas Source, January 27th, 2024
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Celebrating the award of a record $6.5 million in federal urban forestry grants at a ceremony Wednesday at Government House on St. Croix are, from left, Andres Gonzalez and Maya Quinones of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico, V.I. Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen, Assistant Commissioner Diana Collingwood, Olasee Davis, representing the V.I. Trail Alliance, Beattra Wilson, assistant director of the Urban and Community Forestry Program of the U.S. Forest Service, Grizelle Gonzalez, Magaly Figueroa and Jo Ann Santana of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and Sarah Brady, executive director of the St. George Village Botanical Garden. (Government House photo)
Jubilation filled the air at Government House on St. Croix as the V.I. Trail Alliance, St. George Village Botanical Garden and V.I. Agriculture Department celebrated the award of a record $6.5 million in federal urban forestry grants meant to improve the island’s climate resiliency and food security.
Beattra Wilson, assistant director of the Urban and Community Forestry Program of the U.S. Forest Service, said the grants — funded through President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act — are “an investment in urban forestry never seen before.”
She praised the grant applications of the St. Croix non-profits and the Agriculture Department, telling the Source in an interview after Wednesday’s press conference that their proposals “leaped from the pages,” compared to their more than 840 competitors from across the country, for their focus not just on climate but also food security.
Typically, when people think about urban forestry, they think about planting shade trees on city streets and medians, said Wilson. “But the way you all are using your trees here is to offset food insecurity. The preponderance of fruit and nut and spice trees [in the grant applications] was incredible, and I think it was an amazing example that leaped from the pages, that this isn’t just a shade tree. You are checking so many boxes around the benefits that not everybody is thinking of,” she said.