October 2023 ReLeaf Grant Update
Thank you to those who submitted a grant application. We are working to develop contracts, and a final list of awardees will be posted in early 2024. Application Highlights:
- More than $33.1 million was requested, with $6.8 million available.
- There were 151 applicants from all across the state.
- 82% of projects will assist in areas of environmental justice concern.
The ReLeaf Grant Program is one step toward achieving climate-resilient communities identified in the Minnesota Climate Action Framework by planting and maintaining a diverse and sustainable community tree canopy. The Framework's goal is to achieve 30% overall tree canopy cover in communities across Minnesota by the year 2030 and 40% by 2050.
If your community did not receive funding this year, grant applications open again in early 2024, and you are strongly encouraged to apply. Check back for updated application information later this winter.
Over $6.883 million in new funding was made available by the Minnesota Legislature to enhance community forest health that will encourage and promote the inventory, planting, assessment, maintenance, improvement, protection, and restoration of trees and forest resources. The maximum grant request is $500,000 with no minimum match.
Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations with 501(c) status and local units of government in Minnesota, including cities, counties, regional authorities, joint powers boards, towns, soil and water conservation districts, public schools and tribal nations. Parks and recreation boards in cities of the first class are also eligible to apply.
Priority will be given to:
- Use credentialed professional tree care staff, such as Minnesota Tree Inspector, International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist, etc. This includes contract, city, or organization staff working on the project. Credentials must be listed on the application to be considered.
- Prioritize emerald ash borer, especially removing and replacing ash trees that pose significant safety concerns.
- Benefit underserved populations and areas of concern for environmental justice, such as communities with higher populations of low-income residents, people of color, tribal communities, or both.
- Use the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency interactive environmental justice map as a reference.
- Successful applicants will describe how the project activities benefit these communities, ensure engagement and involvement in decision-making, and demonstrate actionable activities for these communities.
- Maintain or increase tree canopy cover.
- Communities with populations less than 20,000.
- Community forestry work conducted on public land or low-income residential property (work on residential land must be conducted by an ISA Certified Arborist, Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) accreditation, or equivalent qualification)
- Work conducted by staff or contractors
- Tree inventories
- Developing a management plan, which can include a forestry-related climate adaption plan, all lands management plan, or emerald ash borer management plan
- Tree and stump removal and tree replacement
- Tree planting
- Chemical treatment of ash trees with an injectable, non-neonicotinoid insecticide (i.e. emamectin benzoate) that either provides long-term impact or supports a long-term program in communities up to 10 miles outside of generally infested areas (please see EAB Generally Infested Areas Buffered by 10 Miles)
- Developing a tree ordinance
- Tree cabling, if a long-term evaluation plan is included
- Maintenance pruning
- Urban and community forestry or arboriculture education and outreach
- Professional certifications and/or training related to the proposed project
- Additional plant care treatments, as approved. Please email UCF staff for questions.
If selected, grantees may only incur eligible expenditures after the grant contract is fully executed.
- Application Available: Monday, Jul. 31, 2023
- Application Questions due: September 4, 2023
- Applications Due: September 18, 2023
- Application Grant Review Process: four weeks
- Project Selection, Grant Agreement Negotiations Begin: October 16, 2023
- Work Plans Approved, Contracts Executed, Grant Work Begins: January 1, 2024
- All Grant Work Completed, Final Reimbursement Request Submitted By: June 30, 2027
How to apply
- Review the Request for Applications
- Download and complete the Application
- Download and fill out the Attachment A Budget Form
- For projects including tree planting:
- Complete the Attachment B 3-Year Tree Maintenance Plan
- o Provide a Species and Stock List
- Submit your EAB Management Plan, if already completed. Communities without an urban and community forest management plan will need to budget for the cost of obtaining one during this grant program.
- Provide a Letter of Support if you are working with an outside organization on the project - any format is acceptable.
Please reach out if you need help or have questions! [email protected]
After reading the Request for Applications, complete all parts of the application found above. Email completed applications to [email protected] (only emailed applications will be accepted). Applications deadline: September 18, 2023 at 11:59 p.m.
We hosted a webinar titled Historic grant funding to assist in urban and community forest management, where we discussed the current status of EAB across Minnesota, the Tree Inspector Program, ISA Certified Arborist credentialing and the urban community forestry grants.
Slides from our presenters:
- Jonathan Osthus' slides: Status of EAB in Minnesota
- Ryan Murphy’s slides: MN certified tree inspector program
- Paul Buck’s slides: International Society of Arboriculture
- Emma Schultz's slides: 2023 ReLeaf community forestry and shade tree bonding grant programs
No matching funds are required. Please do not submit a match as part of your application.
Please submit additional questions to [email protected] by Sep 4, 2023. Answers to frequently asked questions will be posted weekly.
Application and reporting
- The grant application project timeline asks for "specific dates". Is this weekly breakdown, monthly breakdown, quarterly? I appreciate any guidance you can provide.
We recommend it to be as detailed as it makes sense, but also in a way you will be able to adhere to. Given most work is outdoors, weekly may not make sense as you have to adjust based on the weather. Often, we see month/year (ex. January 2024 – 100 ash removed) or months/year (ex. January-March 2024 – 100 ash removed).
Either of these versions help us understand your anticipated workload over the life of the project.
- Can a business or volunteer fill the role of the professional with tree care credentials?
- Yes, if you are contracting services or you have a volunteer with credentials who will be involved, you can list them in your application. We recommend stating who they are, what specific credentials they have, and what role they will serve within your project or what portion of the project they will be responsible for.
- Do we need to maintain records showing that the resident meets the City’s criteria of "low-income"?
- You will need to have documentation verifying that the resident meets your criteria for low-income.
- Is there a required procedure for determining that residents meet the City’s criteria of "low-income", i.e. submittal of particular grant documents?
- There is no specific documentation we require for you to determine that a resident meets your definition of low-income. There is likely already a standard within your city or county and we recommend reaching out to those programs (often health based). Often documentation looks like asking for recent paystubs, or a recent tax filing.
- If our workplan lists the removal of a certain number of residential trees at a budgeted price, can we lower the removal number if the quote comes in higher than anticipated? For example, if our work plan shows removal of 100 trees for $150,000, but the actual costs come back at $200,000, can we drop the number of trees to $150,000 or would we need to provide the missing $50,000 in match. We see a huge range in tree removal cost so are trying to determine how to structure our program to account for, say, a resident who needs a tree removed that requires specialized equipment.
- Please be as accurate as possible when putting these numbers together and recommend that you err on the side of things costing more. With that being said, we understand that there are often more variables when working with residential trees. As soon as you believe there to be a discrepancy between what your application stated you would do and what you will actually accomplish we would ask you to reach out to your grant coordinator. As you didn’t state what the new accomplishment would be (would this drop to 75 trees?), it is difficult to state outright, but I believe we would be able to work with you on this matter without the need of meeting a significant new match requirement.
- Can we include a supplemental attachment to include maps of our Environmental Justice areas of concern, links to our current reports, etc.?
- Absolutely! You can submit additional information around environmental justice within your community.
- A six-month schedule for reimbursement is very difficult for our small nonprofit to work with (annual budget of $156,000). We just do not have the reserves to front the high five-figure costs that will come along with several tree removals during a six month period. Is there another option for small nonprofits to be able to overcome this barrier?
- If awarded, we would be happy to work with you on this. When this arises, we can negotiate doing this as often as monthly. Keep in mind, that we’ll need update reports from you with each reimbursement request, but we allow it to build on itself so we work to not make it overly cumbersome. Please note this in your email when you submit so that if awarded we can incorporate it right away into our contract negotiation.
- If we do a residential program—does the agreement with the resident have to be recorded on their deed/property at the Recorder’s Office?
- No, the ReLeaf grant does not require that.
- Our current city programs that are eligible for low-income residents ask for a signed self-certification form stating that they meet the low income requirements without supporting documentation. Would this be sufficient for verifying low income for private property projects?
- Yes, this is acceptable. You will still need a definition of low-income, but they may self-certify. You will need to maintain that documentation as verification and will likely need to submit it along with your grant reporting/reimbursement requests.
- Can attachments be included with the official application? For example, a program logic model, or a community map of vulnerable populations.
- You may submit supporting documentation with your application.
- What if the projected funds end up not getting completely used? What if costs end up being a little more than initially planned?
- We expect that all funds requested are utilized and we expect that although costs may fluctuate, that you are close in anticipating costs to meet accomplishments listed in your application.
- I am a resident who needs tree work done, how do I apply?
- Only local units of government or nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for funding. We are unable to provide direct assistance to residents at this time. We recommend that you reach out to your city, county, or local nonprofit and encourage them to apply.
- Are Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) eligible to apply?
- Yes, SWCDs are eligible to apply for ReLeaf funding.
- What is the definition of low-income?
- Low-income definitions are typically already defined within your community and we recommend looking into city/county or local NGO social programs that provide assistance to low-income residents for an existing definition. Your application should include and justify your definition, but we are not setting these parameters as communities throughout the state manage that definition differently.
- Our organization is a 501c4, are we eligible to apply?
- Yes, 501(c)4 organizations are eligible to apply. Our definition of nonprofits has expanded to allow for all 501(c) organizations.
- My community has received a grant from you before, is our community still eligible to apply?
- Absolutely! We encourage previous applicants and grantees to apply.
- Can an organization submit more than one application?
- Yes, you may submit more than one application, however no grantee will be awarded more than $500,000 of ReLeaf funding.
- Are schools eligible to apply?
- Independent school districts are eligible to apply for ReLeaf funding. Charter schools are independent public schools; some may have renewable collaborative agreements with independent school districts and would be considered eligible as a part of the school district. Other charters managed by nonprofits are eligible to apply as a nonprofit organization. Public universities, as public schools, are also eligible applicants. Private schools would be eligible to apply if they are owned by a 501(c) nonprofit organization; however, work taking place on privately owned land will need to be on land solely owned by or serving low-income residents.
- Is buckthorn removal an eligible activity?
- Yes, it would technically be eligible; incorporate it into your plans for site preparation for tree planting.
- Is organized management of EAB tree waste an eligible activity? And would a management plan focused specifically on tree waste be considered an eligible planning activity?
- No, the use of funding to manage wood waste or create a wood waste management plan is not an eligible expense of the grant funds.
- Will biochar be an eligible expense?
- No, biochar will not be an eligible expense.
- Is just a tree ordinance a compelling application?
- Its compelling nature will depend on what the ordinance does, its potential to impact maintaining or increasing canopy cover, and its impact and engagement with environmental justice priority communities.
- Can you help us put together a list of species that are appropriate to plant in our community?
- Yes! Reach out to [email protected] for assistance, or contact your local DNR forester.
- You mentioned the DNR becoming more “relaxed” towards ash tree management during the high flight risk season in the summer due to workload, practicality, feasibility, etc. Was that comment about work during flight season more geared to these grants specifically as it relates to formulating a work plan and application? Or is that more of a general practice that the DNR will accept, but discourage, as EAB problems worsen?
That comment relates to ash removals in generally infested areas. Best management practice is to not remove ash trees during flight season. However, updated guidance from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture reads as follows (this is also within the ReLeaf Request for Applications):
Minnesota Department of Agriculture considers May 1 – September 30 to be the flight season for EAB. This means that EAB adult beetles are emerging from infested wood or trees and flying in search of new hosts during this time. The best management practice is to not remove ash trees when EAB are actively flying (May-September), to avoid the risk of EAB emerging from this material in transit or at a processing location.
Emerald ash borer (EAB) infestations are difficult to identify in the early stages of the infestation. Emerald ash borer infestation areas grow via human-assisted movement and through natural dispersion. For these reasons, when new emerald ash borer infestations are discovered, quarantines are enacted on a large scale (county) with the assumption that the infestation is spread beyond what is observed. However, while the quarantine necessarily covers a large area where emerald ash borer may be present, the distribution of emerald ash borer is likely not uniform throughout the quarantine and may be in areas outside these boundaries.
These guidelines ideally should be followed 100 percent of the time when working with ash trees throughout the state of Minnesota. However, once a community is heavily infested with EAB (the point at which EAB-infested ash are so numerous that year-round removal of hazardous trees is necessary to mitigate risk to public), conducting ash tree removals during the emerald ash borer flight season may be necessary to avoid risk to public safety and property. Following these guidelines will provide the lowest degree of risk for movement of emerald ash borer.
- Is the development of a wood waste management or utilization plan and eligible expense?
- No, unfortunately wood waste management or utilization is not an eligible expense.
- Does the removal of a tree also include costs associated with disposal (grinding, transport, etc.)?
- Stand-alone wood waste management is not eligible as part of this grant. You can pay for costs associated with the removal which includes stump grinding and transportation of woody debris.
- Is conducting work on property owned by a for-profit company eligible?
- Yes, if the work serves low-income residents, however the application will still need to come from a local unit of government or nonprofit organization.
- Is conducting work on property owned by a nonprofit organization eligible?
- An ash tree has caused the cement to buckle and crack and has created a tripping hazard. Can any of these funds be used to remove and replace that?
- No, cement or sidewalk repair is not an eligible expense for this grant.
- Is GIS software an eligible expense as part of this grant?
- Yes, if the software costs $4,999.99 or less, it is an eligible expense.
- I would like to buy a piece of equipment that costs $5,000. Can I use $4,000 in grant funds and pay for the rest of it with our own money/match?
- No, funding cannot be used to purchase a singular item that costs $5,000 or more.
- I would like to contract for services for things like tree removal, but the total bill will cost over $5,000 is that an eligible expense?
- Yes, funding can be used to pay contracted services even when they cost over $5,000.
- The ReLeaf grant describes eligibility for projects on residential land for low-income residents. Would multifamily housing complexes be eligible in addition to single-family homes?
- Yes, multifamily housing complexes would be eligible if serving low-income residents.
- Would it be possible for the City to partner with a school district as a subgrantee for increasing tree canopy?
- Yes, if it is a public school (some charter schools may also be eligible).
- In the ReLeaf grant, can contracts include subgrantee assistance with community outreach? Could we work with and pay local organizations to assist with community outreach?
- Yes, this would be eligible.
- Is ongoing maintenance (e.g. watering, etc.) within the grant period, an eligible expense?
- Yes, this would be eligible.
- Would we be able to use funding from this grant for OSHA Chainsaw Safety Certification as our Streets Team uses chainsaws for tree removal?
- If part of your project has staff utilizing chainsaws for removal or pruning, that training would be eligible.
- Would grafting to maintain tree health and repair damaged trees also be an eligible activity?
- Yes, this would be eligible.
- Will our contractors be required to pay prevailing wage?
- Yes, prevailing wage is required. Prevailing wage is based on the work activity, not on the grant, so if the activity has a prevailing wage, it is required. Information on prevailing wage can be found on the Prevailing wage: Highway and heavy rate webpage.
- Can a resident plant a tree in the public right of way of their property, or does it need to be conducted by an ISA Certified Arborist?
- Planting work conducted on public property can be completed by a resident. Keep in mind, we will do a compliance check and will ask you to replant if not planted correctly or we may not reimburse you for the purchase of the tree. We commonly see residents participating in volunteer planting events being led by someone with planting knowledge.
Review additional information on the ReLeaf grants, designed to answer common questions.