CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NJ - On Wednesday at the Chatham Township Municipal Building the 2010 Sustainable Jersey Grants sponsored by Wal-Mart were announced. Berkeley Heights was one of ten municipalities selected for $10,000 in funding, creating the opportunity for an arboreal investigation.
Berkeley Heights will use the money to conduct an analysis of the local tree canopy to measure its environmental benefits. Landsat imagery and computer modeling will be used and the analysis will support the Community Forestry Management Plan by identifying trends of canopy change.
"We expect to get started in about a month and should be finished in well under a year, maybe even six months. We've talked to experts who have spacial analysis capability. We're close to hiring someone who used to work for American Forests," said Leonard Berkowitz, Chairman of the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission. With this study complete, possible improvements to the local tree resources program can later be recommended.
Berkowitz sees the grant and the upcoming project as further progress for his town, coming after a business stimulus grant through the state and a grant received from AMJEC to update the natural resource inventory of Berkeley Heights.
Berkowitz spoke at the announcement in Chatham and where as Chatham Township received a grant to invest in a composter for the School District of the Chathams, Berkeley Heights is taking a more naturalist approach and will use the appropriated funds to produce some findings on trees as an age-old solution to air quality, among other concerns. He was glad to see results of the community's efforts. In his opinion, trees are one of the most natural means of environmental conservation but are not so fully supported.
"People think of burning less fuel, using alternative energy, and you don't hear as much about the role of trees. It's not as high-profile so I thought it would be good to emphasize that," Berkowitz said. The project might help produce data that other municipalities can use and even encourage them to implement tree-planting or tree canopy projects.
"Part of what would be important would be a good write up of what we found and have dissemination and publication spread to other towns and have them think about how it might apply to them," he said.
To that end, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick of District 21 commended Berkeley Heights' grant along with Chatham Township's $25,000 for an in-vessel composter as achievements in state and national leadership, thanking both communities for taking steps that could influence the future of the sustainability movement at the municipal level.
Last year Berkeley Heights earned Sustainable Jersey certification, which was a prerequisite to being considered for a grant.
An independent selection committee composed of State Agency representatives, academics, non-profit organizations and business leaders were given full authority to select the winning projects and municipalities. Chief among criteria for the selection committee judging projects were the importance to sustainability both in New Jersey and globally, the likelihood of success, demonstrated commitment from the municipality and importance of the grant to the project's success.