By Roxanne Blackwell, Hon. ASLA and Caleb Raspler
Congress has passed and President Joseph Biden is expected to enact the most comprehensive U.S. response to the climate crisis yet — The Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation provides a historic investment of $369 billion to improve energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt to climate impacts.
Importantly, the Infrastructure Reduction Act recognizes and funds landscape architecture approaches to combating climate change – from active transportation projects such as complete streets and recreational trails, to water infrastructure based on nature, planting community trees, restoring ecosystems, etc. Additionally, the legislation makes significant strides in environmental and climate justice and ensuring that underserved communities receive resources to adapt to climate change.
Landscape architects are uniquely qualified to carry out these projects. With their community engagement skills, they are uniquely suited to partner with underserved communities. The Cut Inflation Act offers huge opportunities for landscape architects to work with all communities to plan and design a more resilient, low-carbon future.
Significant funding for programs and projects traditionally led by landscape architects include:
ACTIVE TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program: $3 billion to improve walking, safety and access to affordable transportation through projects that are context sensitive.
The program funds:
- Build or improve complete streets, multi-use pathways, regional greenways, and active transportation networks and spines or provide affordable access to essential destinations, public spaces, connections, and transportation hubs.
- Remove high-speed and other transportation projects and facilities that impede connectivity within communities.
- Remove transportation projects and facilities that are a source of air pollution, noise pollution, stormwater or other burdens in underserved communities. These projects can include noise barriers to reduce impacts resulting from a facility, as well as technologies, infrastructure and activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from surface transportation and other air pollution. Solutions may include natural infrastructure, permeable or porous pavement, or protective devices to reduce or manage stormwater runoff; heat island mitigation projects in rights-of-way; improved safety for vulnerable road users; and planning and capacity-building activities in disadvantaged or underserved communities.
Subsidies for low-carbon transport materials: $2 billion to encourage the use of building materials that have significantly lower levels of embodied greenhouse gas emissions in landscape architecture projects, including rebates.
NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS
$250 million for conservation, protection and resilience projects on National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.
$250 million for conservation, ecosystem and habitat restoration projects on NPS and BLM lands.
$200 million for NPS deferred maintenance projects.
$500 million to hire NPS staff.
$250 million to the Fish and Wildlife Service for wildlife salvage and to rebuild and restore units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY FORESTRY
$200 million for vegetation management projects in the National Forest System.
$1.5 billion for competitive grants under the Urban and Community Forestry Assistance Program for tree planting and related activities.
$550 million for the planning, design or construction of water supply projects with the primary purpose of providing domestic water supply to underserved communities or households that do not have reliable access to the supply domestic water in a state or territory.
$4 billion for grants, contracts, or financial assistance to drought-affected states, with priority given to the Colorado River Basin and other basins experiencing comparable levels of long-term drought.
$15 million to provide technical assistance for climate change planning, mitigation, adaptation and resilience in island areas – US territories.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): $2.6 billion for grants, technical assistance and cooperative agreements to enable coastal communities to prepare for extreme storms and other changing weather conditions. This includes projects to support natural resources that support communities dependent on coastal and marine resources and assessments of marine fisheries and marine mammal stocks.
$50 million for competitive grants to fund climate research related to weather, ocean, coastal and atmospheric processes and conditions and impacts on marine species and coastal habitat. .
ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
$3 billion in competitive grants to address air and climate pollution in underserved communities.
$33 million to collect data and track the disproportionate burdens of pollution and climate change on environmental justice communities.
$250 million to the General Services Administration to convert facilities to high performance buildings.
$2.1 billion to purchase low-carbon materials.
$975 million for emerging and sustainable technologies and related sustainability programs.
$20 million for hiring new staff to conduct more efficient, accurate and timely reviews of planning, permitting and approval processes.
Agriculture Department: $19.4 billion to invest in climate-smart agricultural practices and land interests that promote improved soil carbon content and carbon sequestration.
Ministry of Energy: $115 million for the hiring and training of personnel, the development of programmatic environmental documents, the acquisition of technical or scientific services for environmental reviews, the development of environmental data or information systems, the stakeholder and community engagement and the purchase of new equipment for environmental analysis to facilitate rapid and efficient environmental reviews and clearances.
Department of Housing and Urban Development: $837.5 million to improve the energy efficiency or water efficiency or climate resilience of affordable housing.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF): The fund will help effectively finance projects, including landscape architecture projects, to reduce emissions through active transportation, ecosystem restoration, energy and water efficiency, and climate-smart agriculture . The fund will receive a total of $27 billion, of which $8 billion will be earmarked for low-income or otherwise underserved communities. The funds will flow through regional, state, local and tribal green banks. And the GGRF will provide the institutional basis for a National Climate Bank Act.
Roxanne Blackwell, Hon. ASLA, Esq., is Director of Federal Government Affairs, and Caleb Raspler, Esq., is Director of Federal Government Affairs at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).