TOWANDA - A financial boost has arrived to help to educate Bradford County citizens about the environment, whether it be through the construction of a nature trail, paying a speaker to talk to the public about an environmental issue, helping create an environmental curriculum in local schools, or by some other means.

On Thursday, the Bradford County commissioners officially launched the Bradford County Environmental Education Grant Program, through which the county will give out grants of up to $5,000 for "environmentally-related projects that are education-oriented," said Mike Lovegreen, conservation district manager for Bradford County.

The county commissioners hope to be able to distribute a total of $25,000 in grants each year through the program, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith said.

Applications are now being accepted for the grants, Lovegreen said.

The grants are funded by fees charged by the Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority for the disposal of drill cutting waste at its landfill in West Burlington Township, Lovegreen said.

Last June, the Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority's board of directors decided to distribute some of the revenue from the fees to Bradford, Sullivan and Tioga counties.

Last September, the Bradford County commissioners approved a long-term plan for how the county will use the money it receives from the landfill fees.

Under the plan, 25 percent of the revenue the county receives from the fees will be distributed as grants for environmental education through the Bradford County Environmental Education Grant Program, Lovegreen said.

Smith noted that the amount the county will be able to distribute each year will vary somewhat, because it will depend on the amount of drill cutting waste brought to the landfill that year.

However, said Dan Rhodes, education coordinator for the Bradford County Conservation District: "I don't anticipate that (the amount of drill cutting waste) will fall off a lot."

After the commissioners decided to establish the Bradford County Environmental Education Grant Program, the Bradford County Conservation District established the Environmental Education Fund Committee to determine how the grants would be distributed, Lovegreen said.

The committee and the county commissioners have decided there will be two types of grants distributed through the Bradford County Environmental Education Grant Program, he said.

The first type of grant will be a "mini-grant" of up to $500, which could be used, for example, to pay a speaker to deliver a talk on an environmental issue; to rent a hall where an environmental education program would take place; or to pay for educational resource materials, he said.

The second type of grant would be a "capital grant" of up to $5,000, that could be used, for example, to create a trail; to establish an outdoor learning program; or to help establish a nature area with interpretive signage, according to Lovegreen and Rhodes.

Schools, businesses, municipalities, organizations and other entities would be eligible to apply for the grants, Lovegreen said.

"These grants are available to just about anyone that is doing an activity that will benefit the people of Bradford County," Lovegreen said.

However, he did mention that an individual could not apply for a grant for a project that he would undertake on his own.

Committee

It is the Environmental Education Fund Committee that will review the applications for the grants and recommend which projects should be awarded grants, Lovegreen said. The Bradford County commissioners will then make a final decision on which projects will be awarded grants, he said.

The members of the Environmental Education Fund Committee are Bradford County Commissioner John Sullivan, chairman; Leigh Twoey of the Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority; Tom Maloney of Penn State Cooperative Extension; Phil Swank, executive director of the Endless Mountains Heritage Region; Brian Zeidner and Karen Evangelisti of Claverack Rural Electric Cooperative; John George of the Wysox Creek Watershed Association; Lovegreen; Nancy Backer of the Forest Landowners Association; science teacher Nicole Carman, who works at Mt. Pisgah State Park; Chad Spencer, representing the Natural Resource Conservation Service; Terry Lutz, representing the Pennsylvania trappers association; science teacher Tom Hojnowski, representing Future Farmers of America; forester Bob Hanson; Keith Slocum; and Rich Gulyas, former education coordinator at the Bradford County Conservation District.

The committee "hopefully represents a broad base of environmental issues in the county, as well as educators," Lovegreen said.

The applications for the grants are "really simple ... just a one-page type thing," Lovegreen said.

"The intent is to get the money out there, not to create a lot of paperwork," he added.

The applications forms for the grants can be downloaded from the county's website, which is www.bradfordcountypa.org, Lovegreen said.

The application forms are also available at the Bradford County Courthouse, at the Bradford County Conservation District office, and at the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office in Bradford County.

This year's application deadline for the grants is March 31, Lovegreen said.

For more information about the grants, contact the Bradford County Conservation District office at 265-5539, ext. 123.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or e-mail: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.