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The Nebraska Master Naturalist Program is a public and private partnership supported by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Nebraska Master Naturalist Foundation. Our program recruits, trains, manages, and provides resources for our Naturalist members participating in interpretation and outreach, resource management, citizen science, and outdoor skills and recreation in Nebraska.

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News & Notes

Our caravan of cars pulled up to a seemingly random stopping point and we all piled out—members of the Cocopah Tribe, Audubon staff, and people with years of restoration experience in this corner...

BOSTON (May 31, 2023) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $500,000 from President Biden's Investing in America Agenda to expedite the cleanup of a brownfields site in Rhode Island while advancing environmental justice.

EPA selected one community in Rhode Island to receive one grant totaling $500,000 in competitive EPA Brownfields funding through the Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (MARC) Grant programs. Thanks to the historic boost from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this is the largest ever funding awarded in the history of the EPA's Brownfields MARC Grant programs.

This investment is part of President Biden's Investing in America Agenda to grow the American economy from the bottom up and middle-out – from rebuilding our nation's infrastructure, to driving over $470 billion in private sector manufacturing and clean energy investments in the United States, to creating a manufacturing and innovation boom powered by good paying jobs that don't require a four-year degree, to building a clean-energy economy that will combat climate change and make our communities more resilient.

"We're working across the country to revitalize what were once dangerous and polluted sites in overburdened communities into more sustainable and environmentally just places that serve as community assets. Thanks to President Biden's historic investments in America, we're moving further and faster than ever before to clean up contaminated sites, spur economic redevelopment, and deliver relief that so many communities have been waiting for," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. "This critical wave of investments is the largest in Brownfields history and will accelerate our work to protect the people and the planet by transforming what was once blight into might."

"Congratulations to the What Cheer Flower Farm for earning a $500,000 Brownfields cleanup grant this year," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this grant will be used to cleanup the site of an abandoned factory, which will help the flower farm expand operations and services in an underserved part of the City of Providence, providing flowers, greenspace and training to those who need it most."

"One of Rhode Island's original environmental justice programs, brownfields remediation and clean-up grants have a tremendous track record of success in transforming overburdened communities — these clean-ups create healthier communities, spur economic growth, and give neighborhoods new hope," said Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee. "Rhode Island is grateful for the Biden Administration's EPA for the sizable clean-up grant to the What Cheer Flower Farm, which builds off state investments in this amazing project. Seeing condemned, hazardous buildings coming down and colorful flowers blooming in the spring could not be a more tangible sign that something good is happening in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence."

"The landscape in Olneyville is changing and improving. This federal brownfields funding will accelerate budding progress at What Cheer Flower Farm. The farm and its volunteers have breathed new life into the derelict Colonial Knife site in Olneyville and transformed it into a thriving, inviting flower farm and community asset," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed. "Rhode Island has had a great deal of brownfields successes and partnerships. This is another great example of federal funding supporting community-driven revitalization In a way that helps deliver economic and environmental benefits."

"The EPA's Brownfields program continues to make important investments in communities across the Ocean State. With this federal funding for environmental remediation, What Cheer Flower Farm in Olneyville will grow its mission of delivering free flowers to Rhode Islanders in need of a smile, and help stimulate the local economy," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

"What Cheer Flower Farm brings so much joy to our community by growing flowers to give to hospitals, senior centers and more," said U.S. Congressman Seth Magaziner. "I am proud to announce this federal funding that will help What Cheer Flower Farm to continue cleaning up this land and growing its beautiful flowers in a safe environment."

Many communities that are under economic stress, particularly those located in areas that have experienced long periods of disinvestment, lack the resources needed to initiate brownfields cleanup and redevelopment projects. As brownfields sites are transformed into community assets, they attract jobs, promote economic revitalization, and transform communities into sustainable and environmentally just places.

Thanks to the historic $1.5 billion boost from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA's Brownfields Program is helping more communities than ever before begin to address the economic, social, and environmental challenges caused by brownfields and stimulate economic opportunity, and environmental revitalization in historically overburdened communities.

EPA's Brownfields Program also advances President Biden's Justice40 Initiative to direct 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments to disadvantaged communities. The Brownfields Program strives to meet this commitment and advance environmental justice and equity considerations into all aspects of its work. Approximately 84 percent of the MARC program applications selected to receive funding proposed to work in areas that include historically underserved communities.

State Funding Breakdown:

Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (MARC) Grant Program Selection

The following organization in Rhode Island has been selected to receive EPA Brownfields funding through the Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (MARC) Grant Programs.

  • What Cheer Flower Farm, of Providence, R.I., has been selected to receive $500,000 for a Brownfields Cleanup Grant that will be funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The grant funds will be used to clean up the 2.7-acre site located at 63 Magnolia Street in the City of Providence's Olneyville, which is currently contaminated with metals, chlorinated volatile organic compounds, petroleum, and inorganic contaminants from previous manufacturing operations. The What Cheer Flower farm will also use their funds to support community outreach activities.

You can read more about this year's MARC selectees.

Brownfields Technical Assistance Provider for New England

EPA is also announcing funding selection for two Brownfields technical assistance opportunities. The Technical Assistance to Brownfields (TAB) selectees provide specialized technical knowledge, research, and training to help stakeholders understand brownfields-related subject matter, and guide them through the brownfields assessment, clean-up, and revitalization process. This assistance is a key part of the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to advance economic opportunities and address environmental justice issues in underserved communities. This technical assistance is available to all stakeholders and comes at no cost to communities. The two funding opportunities announced today include the following:

  1. EPA selected the University of Connecticut (UConn) to receive $5,000,000 to provide training and technical assistance to communities across the state under the Technical Assistance to Brownfields (TAB) Communities Program. This funding comes entirely from the historic $1.5 billion investment from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Read more about this year's TAB selectees.
  2. EPA is also expanding the scope of its technical assistance offerings under the Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program to include three new subject-specific grants totaling $2 million in three areas, including providing technical assistance to nonprofits seeking to reuse brownfields; provide research, outreach, and guidance on minimizing displacement resulting from brownfields redevelopment; and providing outreach and guidance on land banking tactics for brownfields revitalization. Read more on the Brownfields Technical Assistance and Research cooperative agreement recipients.

More information about Brownfields Technical Assistance and Research.

Additional Background:

EPA has selected these organizations to receive funding to address and support the reuse of brownfields sites. EPA anticipates making all the awards announced today once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied.

EPA's Brownfields Program began in 1995 and has provided nearly $2.37 billion in Brownfields Grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse. EPA's investments in addressing brownfields sites have leveraged more than $36 billion in cleanup and redevelopment. Over the years, the relatively small investment of federal funding has leveraged, from both public and private sources, nearly 260,000 jobs. Communities that previously received Brownfields Grants used these resources to fund assessments and cleanups of brownfields, and successfully leverage an average of 10.6 jobs per $100,000 of EPA Brownfields Grant funds spent and $19.78 for every dollar.

The next National Brownfields Training Conference will be held on August 8-11, 2023, in Detroit, Michigan. Offered every two years, this conference is the largest gathering of stakeholders focused on cleaning up and reusing former commercial and industrial properties. EPA co-sponsors this event with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

BOSTON (May 31, 2023) – New England state air quality forecasters are predicting elevated concentrations of fine particle air pollution due to wildfires in central and southern Nova Scotia. Areas predicted to reach the Moderate 24-hour particle pollution level concentrations on May 31 are:

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island

These locations are subject to change, so please refer to EPA New England's AQI Air Quality Index for current air quality conditions and forecasts across New England.

While there could be a few hours with higher levels of particle pollution, it is expected that the 24-hour average will not rise above the moderate range on the Air Quality Index. Hazy skies, reduced visibility, and the odor of burning wood is very likely as the smoke plumes are transported over the region. During the times that significant smoke is in your area, it is recommended that people with preexisting medical conditions remain indoors with windows closed while circulating indoor air with a fan or air conditioner.

Exposure to elevated fine particle pollution levels can affect both your lungs and heart which may cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma, and other pre-existing lung diseases. When particulate matter levels are elevated, people should refrain from strenuous outdoor activity, especially sensitive populations such as children and adults with respiratory problems.

Everyone can take steps to keep air emissions down during air quality advisory days. As climate change increases the probability of unseasonably warm weather, these kinds of air quality events are predicted to increase in frequency. Communities already vulnerable and overburdened will also be impacted by these kinds of events.

More information:

Real-time Particulate Matter data and air quality forecasts New England Air Quality Index

National real-time air quality data (free iPhone and Android apps) and AirNow

Air Quality Alerts EnviroFlash

Photo by Allison Dush
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