Two years ago, the Forest Health Works Project was created with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Its goal was two-fold, to create jobs and to help the state maintain its woodlands. According to local landscapers, arborists and nursery owners, the project is succeeding on both counts.
In 2009 the R.I. Department of Environmental Management teamed with the Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) – an independent nonprofit – and was awarded a $673,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service. The goal of the grant was to train “green industry” professionals to help control invasive plants that threaten important forests in the state. The project would also provide summer job opportunities, aid local nurseries and require an assessment and inventory for the forests and nonnative, invasive species.
When the project’s original funding ran out last November the program had compiled the following results: It created 3.5 full-time-equivalent, permanent jobs, 12 seasonal, full-time-equivalent positions and 14 youth conservation-crew, summer employees. A total of $285,000 was expended on 16 green-industry contractors and 12 nurseries.
In addition, the project held 51 public-outreach events that involved and trained many volunteers, with a total of about 2,300 interested parties attending the events. It has been so successful that the organization has been able to generate an additional $196,000 to continue its work for as long as new funding can be found.
The contractors involved in the program have benefited greatly from it, including certification in managing invasive species issued by the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council. Throughout the program, participants were actively engaged by some of the most knowledgeable resources, including, RINHS, DEM, Coastal Resources Management Council and the University of Rhode Island Landscape Restoration Program, just to name a few. According to a survey conducted by RINHS at the end of the study, the training had resulted in participants obtaining 22 additional projects with a value of about $62,000.