Helping US Forests

Our work supports organized forestry efforts worldwide. Efforts that can overwhelm those responsible such as the USDA Forest Service. However, private sector volunteers, and supporters like you, may have the answers that can help Keep America Beautiful. The below post by Andrew Avitt, USDA Forest Service, Office of Communications dated December 2020 can originally be found here –https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2020/12/07/innovative-finance-national-forests-grant-program-fosters-new-ideas

Photo by Brandon Montrone on Pexels.com

The USDA Forest Service is charged with caring for 193 million acres of the nation’s forests and grasslands and solving some of the most complex land management challenges. Across the country, forests densely packed with trees are at high risk of catastrophic wildfire as well as insect and disease outbreaks that could impact ecosystem health for generations to come.

There is also a backlog of aging infrastructure, trails and facilities in need of repair, collectively called deferred maintenance, that continues to increase across national forests and grasslands.

Contending with these challenges will require upwards of $65 billion to restore forest health and $5 billion to address deferred maintenance nationwide. Over the last 10 years however, wildfire suppression costs have grown dramatically, sapping funds from the escalating backlogs of work to improve forest health and tackle deferred maintenance, compounding the problem over time.

The National Partnership Office Conservation Finance Program leads the agency’s work to build public-private partnerships to take on these and other land management challenges. This year the National Partnership Office launched the Innovative Finance for National Forests Grant Program with the goal of accelerating work with partners to pioneer partnership models that leverage new sources of funding and financing to support work on the ground.

“The program was really born out of necessity,” said Nathalie Woolworth, conservation finance program manager at the Forest Service. “This new grant program is exploring innovative finance solutions to leverage new sources of funding while also building relationships with partners.”

The Innovative Finance for National Forests Grant Program is a public-private collaboration with the National Forest Foundation and U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. So far, the program has awarded $1.8 million to 10 grantees to create new finance models that leveraging private capital in addressing some of the biggest land management challenges.

The program’s main purpose is to promote creativity in partnership models that tap into new sources of funding and financing.

“Private capital is a sector of largely untapped opportunity for conservation,” said Woolworth. “Private investors are increasingly interested in putting their capital towards projects that yield social and environmental as well as financial returns.”

The grant program helps finance projects that restore forests and reduce wildfire by thinning thick, unhealthy stands of trees. Similarly, the grants have funded construction of facilities that can use the trees removed in restoration operations as biomass energy. The grants also fund cost sharing partnership models for campgrounds, among other programs with environmental, recreation and infrastructure benefits.

The Forest Service and its funding partners selected grantees with projects that can be scaled up and replicated with the end goal to support models with potential to address the agency’s land management challenges at scale.

The outcome of the grant program isn’t just to expand the organization’s toolbox of innovative and effective financial models but also to expand the agency’s network of partners.

“We couldn’t do our work without our partners,” said Woolworth. “In the future, these grantees and their innovative ideas may also become long-term partners, assisting us with the important work of stewarding our national forests.”

ECE and Early STEM Education Update

When 2020 came to a close, we were able to reflect on its benefits and challenges. While GATE was challenged cancelling in-person early childhood educator seminars, the youth education community as a whole benefitted as more organizations offered online educator training. Teachers of the very young can now search online for #ECE Webinars and find numerous training experiences. Many free of charge and some have STEM as a focus like the five below links. #OpenYourGATE #earlySTEM #earlyed #earlychildhood #earlychildhoodeducation

Top 5 Early Childhood Education Webinar Sites

  • Early Childhood Investigations – Why go to a conference when sites like this are now available. High quality early childhood education at your fingertips. Sessions have detailed description of topic and presenter(s). Plus each session is sponsored so cost is, well, zip. Make sure to support those sponsors who support ECE educators. https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/
  • EdWeb offers CE certificates in childhood education through both live links and recorded sessions. They provide a wide array of webinar topics. You can search for age or domain specific training like literacy, socio-emotional or elementary. The link below lists more educational options for teachers that jumped online during 2020. https://home.edweb.net/top25edwebinars-2020/
  • Hatch is a tech business, supplying early learning technologies for classrooms and other learning centers. Webinar and blog post options available for home and work educators. Plus, training opportunities for center employee groups. Check out their website for info. https://www.hatchearlylearning.com/resources/webinars

CHALLENGES MET – GATE’s Learning & Edu-Care Project was further challenged by stay-at-home mandates limiting wilderness outings and youth explorations. As a result, local environmental education efforts were introduced online with mixed reviews. Mobile STEM Lab outreach to children under 10 continued with activities and supplies delivered to homes within Kern County. One child’s story will be posted soon on our Success Stories page. Check back for it.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

LOOKING FORWARD – GATE again joins in Give Big Kern, coordinating it with our annual Earth Day Fundraiser in Spring. Also in Fall 2021, GATE will join Giving Tuesday efforts. Send us a message to add a fundraiser in your community. Visit our donation page to help now. Also, we begin our biggest ever push for volunteer involvement with both in-person and online opportunities. Plus, GATE volunteers will actualize our online publicity campaign with video stories, social media outreach and more. #DoGood #Volunteer #OpenYourGATE

Remember – help us help others. Join our efforts in any way you can. Thank you.