News release: $16 million in grants awarded to strengthen Minnesota’s community forests

June 27, 2024

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced that 81 communities will be receiving a collective $16 million through the ReLeaf Community Forestry Grants and the Shade Tree Bonding Grants, marking a significant investment in community forestry.

These grants underscore Minnesota’s commitment to addressing emerald ash borer and other invasive pests while fostering climate-resilient communities.

Awardees include municipalities, towns, counties, a tribal government, nonprofits, and a school district. The ReLeaf Grants will support 31 projects in areas of environmental justice concern, with eight of the grants providing support for tree care costs, which includes activities such as pruning and tree removals, to low-income property owners. The Shade Tree Bonding Grants will support projects in 43 communities, with a focus on removing ash trees that pose a public safety concern and planting diverse, climate-adapted trees to Minnesota.

These projects will have a positive impact on community forest health, environmental equity, and overall well-being. They will help replace, diversify, and strengthen Minnesota’s urban tree canopy, increase the urban canopy’s resiliency, and help with climate mitigation through carbon storage and the cooling benefits of shade trees. The $16 million awarded is a significant increase over the past grant cycles, and illustrates the Minnesota Legislature’s and Walz-Flanagan Administration’s commitment to preserving and improving community forests now and into the future.

The application period for the next round of ReLeaf Grants is anticipated to open later this year, with an additional $6 million available. The Shade Tree Bonding Grants were fully awarded. Updated information will be available when grants go live on Minnesota DNR’s Community Forestry webpage.

A full list of grant recipients is available on the DNR website.

Awardee highlights

The city of Roseau

“Our small city has very limited resources to put towards tree planting efforts and only through the ReLeaf program is our community able to make significant strides towards our goal of creating a beautiful community with a strong, healthy, and diversified tree canopy,” said Todd Peterson, Roseau community development coordinator.

The city is using the grant to plant 200 trees in various areas throughout the Roseau community and “minimize future large-scale losses to any single tree disease or pest.”

Homecroft Elementary School in Duluth

Homecroft Elementary is the first school awarded a ReLeaf grant. An acre of land was donated to the school that was later enrolled in the Minnesota School Forest Program. Unfortunately, many of their trees have been damaged by storms, emerald ash borer, and other invasive species.

Rebekah Johnson, Homecroft School Forest chair, said while teachable moments can be found anywhere, “this ReLeaf funding will allow us to reforest our acre with a diverse population of native trees that can outcompete opportunistic, aggressive, invasive plants. Our students will then be able to watch a forest grow up around them through their years in elementary school and beyond!”

Urban Roots in St. Paul

Urban Roots is one of five Minnesota nonprofits awarded a ReLeaf Grant. David Woods, the conservation program director at Urban Roots, said he is excited for what this funding will do for the East Side Community in St. Paul.

“We'll be able to greatly expand a program to provide trees to residents and community partners to improve tree canopy coverage, especially in areas that need it most,” Woods said.

The city of Marshall

"The landscape in the city of Marshall will be changed for years to come as a result of emerald ash borer,” said Preston Stensrud, Marshall park and recreation superintendent. “The city has been preparing for EAB for over a decade now, making sure to plant diverse species and conducting tree inventories, but budgets are tight. With the help of the ReLeaf Grant we will be able to focus on removing unhealthy trees, treating trees we feel provide high value for our community and the spaces they are in, and also continue to plant new trees.  We fully understand how important trees are within our community not only today, but for the future as well.”

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