NM groups granted $325K in support of environmental justice - Albuquerque Journal

NM groups granted $325K in support of environmental justice

A Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions educator teaches students about local plant life. The organization received a $50,000 environmental justice grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to teach eighth-graders in the South Valley and Gallup about public health and water quality. (Courtesy of Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

In New Mexico, low-income and minority residents are more likely to live in polluted areas with diminished water and air quality and limited access to outdoor areas.

The environmental justice movement focuses on policies and projects that uplift those communities.

Three New Mexico organizations received environmental justice grants as part of $14 million the Environmental Protection Agency awarded in December.

The EPA was appropriated the funds through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions received $50,000 to create a water quality and public health curriculum for 400 eighth-graders in the South Valley and in Gallup.

The project will teach students how to use water quality monitoring equipment, said Jordan Stone, executive director of Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions.

“Kids are way more engaged and learn a lot more when they’re learning about issues in their own neighborhood, so what’s down the street, in the backyard, what’s the water that’s coming out of their kitchen faucet,” Stone said.

The money will fund 10 classroom sessions and 10 wilderness field trips to learn about New Mexico water.

“Hopefully this increases their ability to feel empowered and understand what’s going on in their communities,” Stone said. “It’s not just getting your hands dirty in water and mud, but teaching them what they can do about local issues.”

Tree New Mexico received $200,000 for a two-year project to plant 400 trees in the International District.

A city heat mapping project this summer confirmed the southeast Albuquerque neighborhood is one of the city’s urban heat islands.

Limited tree canopy and an abundance of asphalt and concrete make the region several degrees hotter than surrounding areas.

The project will also teach young neighborhood residents how to use equipment that monitors air quality and heat index.

Shannon Horst, Tree New Mexico’s executive director, said that data is key for a community where “environmental injustice has been endemic.”

“These communities have experienced, among other things, the lowest investments in things like trees, parks and open space that improve the environment people live in,” Horst said.

The group will plant the first 200 trees, including 50 fruit trees, in the spring.

“Our education programs under this grant will include very basic training in planting, watering and pruning – early while the tree is young and less than 12 feet tall – to the homeowners who adopt the trees,” Horst said.

The Health Equity Council received $75,000 to create a neighborhood food hub plan for the International District.

The council will devote monthly meetings to ensuring that more affordable, fresh produce from local growers is distributed to residents through food-sharing networks.

The initiative will also focus on air quality and water conservation with projects at local gardens.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misstated the grant amount for Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions. 

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.


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