Expanding and Stewarding Regional Forest Canopy via a Tree Planting Consortium in Northwest Indiana

Delta Institute is working with municipal, business, and community partners in Lake County, Indiana to expand regional forest canopy acreage via an innovative multi-community approach to comprehensive canopy mapping; forest planning, installing 2,240+ trees, and expanding maintenance and capacity building. These efforts will be achieved via a collaborative tree planting consortium structure with foundational inclusive community engagement throughout the entire process.

 

Why Our Work is Needed

As climate change impacts cities and regions throughout the Midwest, increased problems related to flooding, stormwater runoff, and degraded infrastructure all threaten public health, water quality, economic opportunity, and quality of life. These problems are most acute in areas with historical divestment and exclusion.

We believe these challenges can be addressed by working together as a collective–rather than as an individual organization or municipality–so that we collectively put together a structure that provides for long-term forestry planning, community engagement, planning cohesion, and efficiencies in procurement and maintenance. Further, by planting trees in the region to mitigate stormwater challenges, as well as providing capacity-building training sessions for the local community to promote long-term forestry stewardship and management, we can help municipalities proactively respond to flooding risks. Along with other investment, Green Infrastructure (GI) can help communities manage their stormwater runoff, improve air and water quality, increase property values, and build social cohesion.

 

Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

Delta Institute (Delta) and our coalition of partners (public, private, community, and nonprofit) will organize a regional Tree Planting Consortium (TPC) in Lake County, Indiana, to administer trainings, oversee planting planning and data collection activities, identify vendors, administer procurement, share education materials, oversee coordination, and support the execution of best management practices (BMP) for stormwater tree planting, maintenance, and stewardship. These efforts will address water quality, urban forest canopy, and environmental justice issues in our partner municipalities:

Maintain/improve water quality and watershed function: Demonstration projects will serve as both a “boots-on-the-ground” example for TPC candidates to witness diverse forestry and restoration project options while providing measurable environmental benefit related to the 2020 Indiana State Forest Action Plan, GLRI Action Plan, and several local watershed/regional plans. 7M stormwater gallons treated annually via 2,240 trees planted; water quality indicators (phosphorus, nitrogen, sediment, E.coli) will be monitored using EPA guidelines and BMP tools.

Ecological and economic benefits: The TPC’s regional management will maximize tree canopy restoration and stormwater management while advancing equity, neighborhood/corridor beautification, public health, carbon capture and sequestration, habitat restoration, species diversification, emerald ash borer mitigation, local volunteerism, youth education, and community capacity-building via 15 miles of riparian forest and 41,600 acres of urban canopy expansion. Sites are publicly accessible and offer expanded access to nature while addressing quality-of life needs.

Our scope of work directly aligns with identified issues local-, watershed- and regional plans. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan and 2020 Indiana State Forest Action Plan calls for restoring forests in riparian areas and asserts a forested buffer around perennial watercourses improves water quality, wildlife habitat and protects soil resources by buffering runoff and improving infiltration/water quality. The local watershed management plan addresses water quality, habitat, and flood reduction in the HUC-10 Watershed (#0404000105), which drains into Lake Michigan.

Below are many more impact metrics that we seek to achieve through this important project:

May 2023 Site Visit
May 2023 Site Visit
May 2023 Site Visit

 

Our Partners and Collaborators

This project is generously supported by a grant provided by the United States Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration program, and the Dr. Scholl Foundation. We are grateful to our many municipal partners, community groups, contractors, and fellow nonprofits partnering with us on this scope, which includes the Student Conservation Association and Davey Resource Group.

It is only through intentional and authentic collaboration that we all may achieve our shared project goals and success. We are deeply appreciative of the roster of partners and supporters who are collaborating with us to advance environmental outcomes in Lake County, and beyond.

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