News release: Historic level of grant funding now available for urban and community forest management

August 3, 2023

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has more than $25 million available to grant to local units of government, tribal governments and non-profit organizations through June of 2027 for urban and community forest management, particularly to address Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). This funding was an outcome of the 2023 Minnesota Legislative Session and will be awarded over a series of competitive grant application periods. The first application period opened on July 31, 2023 with $16 million in available grant funding.

There are two categories of grant funding available during this current application period: ReLeaf Grants and Shade Tree Program Bonding Grants. While the grant application period is starting at the same time for these two programs, the eligible applicants and activities, as well as the application due dates, differ. Below are key features of each of the grant programs.

  • ReLeaf Grants (up to $6.9 million in available funding this round, with a similar amount to be offered next year) are available to tribal governments, local units of government (including cities, counties, regional authorities, joint powers boards, towns) and non-profit organizations with 501(c) status. Parks and recreation boards in cities of the first class are also eligible to apply. ReLeaf Grants cover an extensive range of activities to address EAB and other forest health issues. Eligible activities include tree inventories, management plans, tree stump removal, tree replacement and planting, education and outreach, chemical treatment of ash with injectable non-neonicotinoid insecticides, and several other activities. For the first time, community forestry activities conducted by staff or contractors on residential land that is owned by or serves low-income residents are also grant-eligible. Applications will be accepted for ReLeaf Grants through Monday, Sept. 18.
  • Shade Tree Program Bonding Grants (up to $10.1 million available in total) are available to tribal governments and local units of government. Eligible activities include removal and replanting of shade trees to provide environmental benefits; replacement of trees lost to forest pests, disease, or storm; and tree plantings to establish a more diverse community forest better able to withstand disease and forest pests. These activities must be on public or tribal land. Applications for Shade Tree Bonding Grants will be accepted through Monday, Oct. 2.

Applicants to either program can request a maximum of $500,000 per program and can apply to one or both program(s). No minimum request or match is required. Applications are evaluated on a range of scoring criteria. These criteria focus on the strength of the proposal (e.g., purpose, budget, timeline, staffing) and the extent to which the proposal meets the grant priorities of benefiting underserved populations and areas of concern for environmental justice, and focusing on EAB, especially the removal and replacement of ash trees presenting notable safety risks. To encourage smaller communities to apply, projects that serve communities with a population of 20,000 or less will receive a small scoring incentive.

For more information on grant criteria, activities and the application process, please visit the Minnesota DNR community forestry webpage.

The Minnesota DNR is hosting several in-person, one-hour informational sessions to learn more about these grant programs, as follows:

  • Thursday, Aug. 3: 1 p.m., Two Harbors Public Library, Two Harbors 320 Waterfront Dr., Two Harbors, MN 55616
  • Friday, Aug. 4: 10 a.m., Bremer Room, Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud 1300 W. St. Germain St., St. Cloud, MN 56301
  • Tuesday, Aug. 8: 10 a.m., Room 104, City Hall, Rochester 201 4th St. SE, Rochester, MN 55904
  • Thursday, Aug. 10: 10 a.m., DNR Office, Windom 175 Co. Rd. 26, Windom, MN 56101
  • Tuesday, Aug. 15: 10 a.m., Bluepeak Room, Red Baron Arena, Marshall 1651 Victory Dr., Marshall MN 56258
  • Wednesday, Aug. 16: 10 a.m., DNR Central Office, St. Paul 500 Lafayette Rd., St. Paul, MN 55155

In addition, on Aug. 2 the Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee hosted an informational webinar about the grant programs that was recorded and will be made available on the DNR community forestry webpage for those unable to join an in-person informational session. Interested applicants can also reach out to [email protected] with any questions regarding these grant programs, and can also contact the DNR forester in their region for further assistance.

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