More than 40 Iowa communities are being awarded grants up to $10,000 for tree-planting projects. The effort, called Branching Out, is coordinated by Alliant Energy and the conservation group Trees Forever to improve energy efficiency and increase environmental awareness.
Alliant spokesman Justin Foss says trees provide shade in the summer, but participants are learning their added value in other seasons.
“What they’re doing is strategically placing the trees around the north and the west parts of town so that it directs the winds around the town,” Foss says. “That means you can retain some of that heat, especially during the winter.” The grants will be used to plant trees in parks, cemeteries, nature trails and schools. Foss says the emphasis is on improving energy efficiency but some cities will use the funds to replace trees damaged by disease or pests like the Emerald Ash Borer.
“Communities are now finding more and more reasons for why it’s important to have a diverse tree population,” Foss says. “They’re taking these grants to add more trees of different diversity, of different families, so that if another plague issue comes through, they’re not as devastated by that.”
He says many trees were devastated by Dutch elm disease a few decades ago and, most recently, the Emerald Ash Borer claimed many thousands across the region. Nearly $137,000 is being made available for tree plantings throughout Iowa this spring. The project is responsible for planting more than one-million trees in Iowa since 1989.