The Aspetuck Land Trust’s mission to preserve Connecticut’s green spaces is turning its focus toward Bridgeport with the help of a state grant.

The land trust is one of 12 recipients to receive the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Grant program grant to implement climate smart practices. Early this year, the state agencies awarded nearly $7 million in Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry grants.

“Climate smart practices are crucial in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Kim Craig, who wrote the grant for ALT. “The benefits both long and short term of climate smart practices include carbon sequestration, increased tree canopy, especially relevant for urban landscapes like Bridgeport which has the lowest tree canopy in the state, heat amelioration, capture of storm runoff, alleviation of flooding and erosion, and increased biodiversity and creating healthy natural habitats for wildlife to thrive.”

Founded in 1966, the Aspetuck Land Trust’s mission is the preservation and conservation of open space.

The two-year $200,000 grant will be used by ALT to create densely planted micro-forests on seven Bridgeport public school sites. The micro-forests will be based on the Miyawaki Method, a unique forestry climate-smart practice that was created over 40 years ago.

Craig said the Miyawaki Forests are dense, biodiverse pocket forests that aim to recreate the relationships and succession of a natural forest. By densely planting a biodiverse array of native species, these forests encourage collaboration between the plants’ fungal and microbial life in the soil, resulting in fast-growing forests with high survival rates.

The grant money will support site testing and baseline measurements, site preparation, micro-forest design, native plant sourcing and installation, as well as organizing STEM programming with the participating schools.

“Since we have begun our work in Bridgeport, we have been looking for more ways to help improve the environmental challenges residents of Bridgeport face, especially in mitigating the effects of climate change,” said Craig. “This grant, from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and Forestry gives us the chance to bring Aspetuck Land Trust’s 55 years of smart forestry practices to help heal the urban landscape.” 

ALT will be working with Plan it Wild, a New York based native-landscaping company to introduce the micro-forests in Bridgeport.

The project will the expand ALT’s Green Corridor, which is a “connected landscape of conserved open spaces and biodiverse backyards.” The Green Corridor was established in 2020 as a 40,000-acre concentrated study area, and it was expanded to include urban spaces such as Bridgeport in 2022.

Last year, Easton voters approved selling to the land trust roughly 18.7 acres of a 29-acre plot of town-owned land on South Park Avenue. The land trust will preserve the land and protect the Mill River on the property, a Class 1 Wild Trout Management Area recognized by state environmental officials.

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