Towns and cities across Virginia can receive up to $10,000 through a new grant program to map, evaluate, and plan for conserving their natural resources. As many as 10 localities, or planning district commissions, will be awarded grants later this year.

With funding provided by the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, grant recipients are required to provide a one-to-one match of the amount awarded through either a cash or in-kind contribution. The Green Infrastructure Community Planning Grant will be administered by the Green Infrastructure Center (Charlottesville, Va.) and supported by the Virginia Department of Forestry. The deadline to apply is August 21.

“We’re looking to help localities create a plan for evaluating their top natural resource assets,” said Karen Firehock, director of the Green Infrastructure Center. “These natural assets create healthful communities and sustain local economies. However, if we don’t know where this green infrastructure is located, we can lose it over time.”

Grant winners will follow the Green Infrastructure Center’s six-step process for creating landscape-scale green infrastructure plans. Such plans can help facilitate development in ways that reduce the effect on the landscape or restore environmental functionality where it has been lost.

According to Firehock, ranking and mapping natural systems as part of a community’s infrastructure informs zoning decisions and can enable localities to reap other benefits.

In this context, green infrastructure includes such interconnected natural systems in a landscape as intact forests, woodlands, wetlands, parks and rivers, and agricultural soils. These natural landscape elements provide clean water, air quality, wildlife habitat, and food. In urban areas, green infrastructure also includes tree canopy, streams, wetlands and other open spaces, such as parks and trails. Learn more.