Grant funding for climate change program spearheaded by Joliet senator

State Sen. Rachel Ventura speaks at a press conference regarding the state’s proposed investment in higher education at Joliet Junior College on Thursday, March 16th, 2023.

Illinois — State Sen. Rachel Ventura of Joliet has ushered new legislation through the Illinois Senate creating a grant program for local governments working to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Increasing emissions from car and particularly truck traffic have been deemed contributory to climate change and air quality issues in the Joliet area.

According to a news release from Ventura’s office, new research has highlighted how native grasses and trees are particularly effective for reducing greenhouse gases.

A Montana State University study showed that plants on federal lands alone absorb 7 million metric tons of carbon each year, which is equivalent to the average annual emissions from 5 million cars, according to the release.

“By encouraging local governments to plant native trees and grasses, which are proven to help mitigate climate change through carbon capture, we can aid the process of healing our planet for future generations significantly,” Ventura said in the release. “This grant opportunity would make a big difference in every corner of the state, tackling the deterioration of the planet head-on.”

The Healthy Forests, Wetlands and Prairies Act would require the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to establish a grant program for local governments to restore degraded forests and prairies, encourage planting trees and grasses along roads to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and address flooding and prevent snow and dirt drifts.

“Nature must be a part of a comprehensive response to the climate crisis. Healthy trees, wetlands and prairies help us in the fight against a warming planet. They clean the air we breathe and the water we drink, and they protect our lives and homes from storms and floods,” Ashley Maybanks, director of government relations and policy at The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, said in the release. “While we continue to push for a massive reduction in fossil fuel use, the Healthy Forests, Wetlands and Prairies Act will ensure nature can be a part of the answer here in Illinois.”

The bill, SB 2781, passed the Senate on Thursday and will head to the house for further debate, according to the release.

If passed, Ventura encourages all local governments to apply and consider lining their roads with trees and native grasses where applicable.