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HV group issues ecological grants

Partners for Climate Action Hudson Valley (PCA) based in Chatham, New York, believes that preserving the environment is critical and it is helping ecological-based organizations in their quest to alleviate ecological decline and the effects of climate change.

“There’s a lot of despair in our communities right now. People know that Mother Nature is struggling and the climate is changing, and we hear a lot of talk from our government but not much of a response.  The antidote to despair is action,” Bob Dandrew, founding partner of Partners for Climate Action Hudson Valley (PCA) told the Business Journals.

PCA recently announced its inaugural round of Ecological Restoration Grants. Seventeen organizations in five counties will receive a total of $350,000 to implement action-based ecological restoration projects in 2023. Grants ranged from $1,500 to $100,000 and were awarded in Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Putman and Ulster counties to municipalities, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and faith-based organizations. PCA identifies barriers that are standing in the way of local ecological action and does what it can to help overcome them. The barriers could include financial, social, political or any number of other factors. In many cases, relatively small amounts of funding by PCA  will help turn inaction into action.

Bob Dandrew

“We cast our net broadly so that we could see what was out there in terms of interest and scale. While we offered up to $100,000, we didn’t know if there’d be any projects at that level. We were delighted to discover there are plenty of ambitious communities out there,” said Dandrew. “It really doesn’t have to cost a lot to make a big difference for the environment.”

Dandrew noted all 17 projects PCA funded in the initial round of grants are important but some that stand out for him include: the Kite’s Nest project in Columbia County that will employ at-risk youth to collect food scraps from residents and turn them into compost that will help remediate damaged soil at an old industrial site; the Glynwood Center in Putnam County that is leading the way for regional farms with an experimental effort to remove invasive species without harmful chemicals; and Bard College’s conversion of abandoned Dutchess County property into large-scale pollinator habitat should be a stunning example for large landholders to follow.

“I’m encouraged by a community effort to restore native trees and shrubs along a storm-ravaged section of the Hudson River shoreline by the Saugerties Lighthouse in Ulster County,” Dandrew said.

He said that each grant application was carefully evaluated over a three-month period by what’s described as a blue-ribbon panel of reviewers consisting of climate scientists, agro-ecologists, nonprofit leaders, and community activists.

“We were very specific that projects needed to show demonstrable work on the ground within a year’s time,” Dandrew said, while noting that the grants did not fund research. “We told people that if they ended up with paper cuts rather than dirt under their finger nails, they were on the wrong path.”

Recipients have one year to deploy the funds and PCA will offer technical support, follow their progress, and assist with story-telling to inspire similar activity across the Hudson Valley and beyond.

According to Dandrew, the grant process is complex and very competitive and New York State has limited funding available for ecological restoration.

“It’s generally very difficult to find funding for this work,” he said. “There was a special sense of elation at Partners for Climate Action on the day we announced the grants. We know how urgently the applicants want to take action, and now they can go out there and get their projects completed.”

Dandrew emphasized that the Hudson Valley is a major producer of agricultural products and it is being affected by extreme weather that has impacted everything from energy costs to travel. Other issues include an increase in the deer population and a decrease in the number of bees, which are vital to pollinate crops. He said that PCA intends to launch another round of grants in the near future.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for our region,” Dandrew said.  “I believe our Ecological Restoration Grants will remove a serious barrier to action in towns throughout the Valley, and when neighbors see neighbors rolling up their sleeves, they’ll want to join in.”


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