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Managing Your Community Forest

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Important Parts of a Well Managed Urban Forest

Urban trees provide many benefits to communities, but they also require care and management to maximize those benefits. There are four parts to managing your community's urban trees for their benefit and yours:

  1. A tree board is a group that is responsible for the oversight of the community forest. A tree board can be made up of municipal staff, local citizens, and/or tree care professionals. Responsibilities may include policy formulation, advising, administration, management, representation and/or advocacy.
  2. A tree ordinance will provide authority to the community to conduct forestry programs, establish a Tree Board, define municipal responsibility for public and private trees, pass regulations, and set minimum standards for management.
  3. Writing and implementing a management plan assists in the creation of a vision for the long-term community forest. It develops strategies, budgets and plans to meet that vision. It develops a tree inventory, which includes locations, species, site conditions, and management needs. A survey is necessary in order to develop a management plan.
  4. Keeping up with the newest science and best management practices and using professional staff or consultants is essential. Whether creating a staff position for a certified arborist or urban forester, or contracting with them on an as needed basis, professional assistance will have some of the greatest and most immediate impacts on your community forestry program. Professionals are trained in tree inventory, management planning, planting techniques, pruning and tree care, risk tree assessment, tree removal, tree pest and health issues and can train volunteers in appropriate management practices.

DEC urban foresters are available to help your community develop the components of a well managed community forest. For more information contact your local DEC office.

Finding Funding for Your Urban Forest

Maintenance and management of your urban forest requires funds, and many municipalities struggle to find funding for their programs. There are grants and programs that offer funding for aspects of urban forestry. The programs below are organized by state, federal, and other sources of funding. Urban forestry provides many benefits, and those benefits such as stormwater management, flood control, heat island mitigation, reduced energy costs for buildings, and others overlap with the targets of these grants. We've provided the list of potential funding sources below to help you source funds for your urban forestry program.

State Level Funding Sources

Grant name: DEC Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Grants

Grant frequency: approximately biannually

About: The UCF Grant program is a primary source of urban forestry funding for New York State.

For more information, visit the grant webpage for more information and read the last round's RFA.

Grant name: Green Innovation Grant Program (GIGP)

Eligibility: Municipalities, state agencies, soil and water conservation districts, private entities

About: The GIGP is a stormwater focused grant program that supports green stormwater infrastructure projects in order to reduce and treat stormwater at its source. Eligible practices include the use of street trees to manage and clean stormwater and urban forestry programs.

For more information visit the GIGP website (leaves DEC website).

Grant name: DEC Invasive Species Grants

Eligibility: Municipalities, academic institutions, and 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporations whose projects are located within the eligible geographic boundaries. Other groups such as unincorporated lake associations must apply through a municipality, not-for-profit, or academic institution as the designated lead.

About: The Invasive Species Grant Program supports projects that target both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species.

Grant size: Minimum grant amount is $11,000. Maximum grant amount is $100,000.

For more information, visit the Invasive Species Grants webpage.

Grant name: DEC Climate Smart Communities Grants

Eligibility: any county, city, town, borough, or village of the State of New York is eligible to apply. Registered or Certified Climate Smart Communities receive additional points in the competitive scoring system.

About: Funds are available for two broad categories. The first category supports implementation projects related to climate change adaptation and the reduction of greenhouse gases outside the power sector (transportation, methane and refrigerants). The second category supports planning projects related to Climate Smart Communities certification actions. Urban forestry projects like those that improve stormwater management and mitigate urban heat island effects fall under Action 7: Enhance Community Resilience to Climate Change.

Grant size: Grants of up to $2,000,000 are available for implementation projects in two major categories: adaptation and non-power mitigation. Grants of up to $100,000 are available for assessments and planning activities that enable local governments to become Certified Climate Smart Communities.

For more information, visit our Climate Smart Communities webpage.

Grant name: DEC Environmental Justice (EJ) Grants

Eligibility: Eligible sole applicants must be must be 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations. Organizations with other types of tax-exempt status, such as 501(c)(4), are not eligible to apply for an EJ Grant without a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor. Eligibility requirements may vary between grant opportunities.

About: DEC's Office of Environmental Justice offers competitive grants to support and empower communities as they develop and implement solutions that significantly address environmental issues, harms, and health hazards, build community consensus, set priorities, and improve public outreach and education.

Grant size: Up to $100,000

For more information, visit our Environmental Justice grants page.

Grant name: NYS Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) Community Grants

Grant frequency: annual

Eligibility: NYSP2I invites applications from community organizations, municipal departments, and other public sector and nonprofit entities based in New York State. Community Organizations: lawfully incorporated/registered organizations with a focus in environmental, public health, or occupational health protection; academic institutions; neighborhood associations; environmental justice organizations; community development corporations; public benefit corporations; health centers; local unions and labor organizations; and other nonprofits.

Local government agencies: offices or departments of a city, town, county, or primary and secondary schools in New York State. These may include, but are not limited to, local environmental agencies, boards of health, departments of public works, local emergency response offices, town commissions, planning and zoning boards, libraries, and schools.

About: The Community Grants Program supports initiatives that promote public awareness, understanding, and implementation of pollution prevention practices at the local level. NYSP2I invites applications from community organizations, municipal departments, and other public sector and nonprofit entities based in New York State.

For more information, visit the NYSP2I Community Grant Page (leaves DEC website).

Opportunity name: DEC's Trees for Tribs

About: While not a grant program, Trees for Tribs is a statewide program that has been working to reforest New York's streams and rivers. The program's goal is to plant trees and shrubs along streams to create a forested riparian (streamside) buffer that helps decrease erosion, reduce flooding damage, improve wildlife and stream habitat, and protect water quality. Streams and rivers in urban settings would qualify for this program.

For more information, visit our Trees for Tribs webpage.

Federal Funding Sources

Grant name: DOI U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grant Program

Opportunity frequency: annual

Eligibility: Participation is limited to State, Commonwealth, or Territorial agencies with lead management responsibility for fish and wildlife resources in each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

About: The State Wildlife Grant Program provides federal grant funds for the development and implementation of programs for the benefit of wildlife and their habitats, including species that are not hunted or fished. Eligible activities include both conservation planning and implementation activities.

For more information, visit the Federal Grants funding opportunity page (leaves DEC website).

Grant Name: Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grand Program 2021

Eligibility: Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes and educational institutions. Funds available nationwide with additional funds for priority areas

About: This program will award approximately $1.5 million in grants nationwide. The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships focused on improving water quality, watersheds and the species and habitats they support. Projects include a variety of ecological improvements along with targeted community outreach, education and stewardship. Ecological improvements may include one or more of the following: wetland, riparian, forest and coastal habitat restoration; wildlife conservation, community tree canopy enhancement, water quality monitoring and green infrastructure best management practices for managing run-off.

Visit the website for full program details and how to apply

Grant name: DOI BOR WaterSMART Grants: Water and Energy Efficiency

Opportunity frequency: Annual

Eligibility: A state, Indian tribe, irrigation district, water district, or other organization with water or power delivery authority. Applicants must also be located in the Western United States or Territories as identified in the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902. Those not eligible included, but are not limited to Federal Governmental entities, individuals, Institutes of higher education, 501(c)4 organizations, 501(3)6 organizations.

About: This funding opportunity invites eligible organizations with water or power delivery authority to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with reclamation on projects that seek to conserve and use water more efficiently; increase the production of hydropower; mitigate conflict risk in areas at a high risk of future water conflict; enable farmers to make additional on-farm improvements in the future, including improvements that may be eligible for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funding; and accomplish other benefits that contribute to water supply reliability in the western United States and provide benefits for fish, wildlife, and the environment to mitigate impacts caused by drought.

Grant size: up to $1,500,000

For more information, visit the WaterSMART webpage (leaves DEC website).

Grant name: Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost Share Grant Program from USDA Forest Service

Opportunity frequency: Annual

Eligibility: Any U.S. Non-Federal and Tribal Organization, operating within the United States or its territories, may apply for grant. While collaboration with Federal agencies is encouraged, a Federal agency may not receive funding or be used as match to the Federal funds being requested. Individuals and private land are not eligible.

About: The USDA Forest Service seeks innovative grant proposals for program development, study, and collaboration that will address urban and community forest resilience and aligns with one or more applicable goals in the National Ten Year Urban and Community Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026).

For more information, visit the USDA Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost Share Grant program webpage (leaves DEC website).

Grant name: Great Lakes Restoration

Grant frequency: Annual

Eligibility: State agencies, tribal communities, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and local governments that work within the Great Lakes Basin of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

About: Funds are available through an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for competitive grants in four program areas:

  • Forest Insect and Disease Mitigation
  • Reduce Runoff from Degraded Sites through Green Infrastructure
  • Protect and Restore Coastal Wetlands through Healthy Tree Cover
  • Restore Resilient Riparian and Shoreline Forests

Grant size: $50,000 to $300,000

For more information, visit the USDA Great Lakes Restoration program webpage (leaves DEC website).

Grant name: Urban Agroforestry Initiative

Grant frequency: Annual

Eligibility: Nonprofit organizations, units of local government, Tribal governments, and any school that serves any of grades K-12.

About: The USDA National Agroforestry Center is requesting proposals to substantially expand and accelerate the availability of information to support decisions on the adoption and design of urban agriculture that includes agroforestry practices. The agreements awarded under this announcement will support the USDA goals to maximize the ability of American agricultural producers to prosper by feeding and clothing the world and to provide all Americans access to a safe, nutritious and secure food supply, as well as the USDA National Agroforestry Center goal to provide key decision-making information that supports adoption of agroforestry. The intent of this grant opportunity is to expand the available resources on how urban agriculture systems can include perennials and/or agroforestry practices.

Grant size: $25,000 to $50,000. This grant does not require a financial match.

For more information, visit the USDA Agroforestry Webpage (leaves DEC website).

Grant name: Urban Agriculture and Innovation Production (UAIP) Competitive Grants Program

Eligibility: Nonprofit organizations, units of local government, Tribal governments, and any school that serves any of grades kindergarten through grade 12.

About: UAIP supports the development of urban agriculture and innovative production activities by funding Planning Projects and Implementation Projects led by nonprofit organizations, local or Tribal governments, and schools that serve any of the grades K-12 in areas of the United States. Projects should target a single or multiple urban areas, suburbs, or urban clusters where access to fresh foods is limited or unavailable and should include one or more partner organizations to achieve project goals within the target area(s).

Grant size: $100,000 to $500,000. This grant does not require a financial match.

For more information, visit the USDA UAIP Grants Page (leaves DEC website).

Grant name: Healthy Communities Grant Program

Eligibility: Nonprofit organizations, units of local government, Tribal governments, and any school that serves any of grades kindergarten through grade 12.

About: The Healthy Communities Grant Program is EPA New England's main competitive grant program to work directly with communities to reduce environmental risks to protect and improve human health and the quality of life. The Healthy Communities Grant Program will achieve this through identifying and funding projects that:

  • Target resources to benefit communities at risk
  • Assess, understand, and reduce environmental and human health risks
  • Increase collaboration through community-based projects
  • Build institutional and community capacity to understand and solve environmental and human health problems
  • Achieve measurable environmental and human health benefits
  • Advance emergency preparedness and resilience

Grant size: up to $35,000

For more information, visit the EPA Healthy Communities Grant Program website (leaves DEC website).

Not-for-Profit and Industry Funding Sources

NYS Urban Forestry Council Tree City Grants

Application period: Annual, sometimes offered twice yearly

About: The NYS Urban Forestry Council, advisory group and partner in ReLeaf for the DEC's urban forestry program, offers two Tree City related grants. The Quick Start Grant program rewards up to $1,000 to a community that is NOT a Tree City USA but wants to become one in the year of the award. The Tree City USA Reward grant provides up to $1000 for one large notable tree or a few smaller ones to create a grove to communities that have been Tree City USA communities for 5 years.

For more information on both grants and when they are next available please visit the Council Grant Page (leaves DEC website).

Arbor Day Foundation TREE Proposal

Application period: Ongoing, proposals are accepted continuously and Arbor Day looks to match proposals with prospective donors

About: Arbor Day's Community Tree Proposal is an ongoing effort to connect projects to potential donors and funding sources. Submit your project information for tree plantings, community volunteer projects around trees, growing your community canopy, and other ideas and Arbor Day will help advocate for your project. Submissions do not guarantee funding. This is a great opportunity for community projects that are already well planned and just looking for funding to get started.

To submit an application for a project visit Arbor Day's TREE Proposal site (leaves DEC website)

TD Bank Green Space Grants

Application period frequency: Annual

Eligibility: Municipalities in areas that have TD Banks, with preference given to Tree City USA communities and projects that fit with the annual theme.

About: The TD Bank Group Green Space program offers grants of up to $25,000 to support green infrastructure development, tree planting, forestry stewardship and community green space expansion to advance environment and economic benefits toward a low-carbon economy. Projects promote innovative practices and tools in community urban forestry and green space management and demonstrate community involvement. Eligible projects must take place within TD Bank's footprint in the U.S. or Canada, with priority given to projects in areas that primarily serve low- to moderate-income residents or underserved communities.

Grant sizes: $20,000-$25,000

For more information, visit the Arbor Day Foundation TD Bank Grants website (link leaves DEC website).

NFWF and Wells Fargo Resilient Communities Program

Application period frequency: Annual

Eligibility: Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, local governments, state government agencies and federally recognized tribes in the US. Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, businesses, educational institutions, unincorporated individuals and international organizations

About: The Resilient Communities program provides grant funding to enhance community capacity to plan and implement resiliency projects, and improve the protections afforded by natural ecosystems, by investing in conservation and nature-based infrastructure. This program will invest up to $3 million in projects to increase and enhance preparedness by taking advantage of natural and nature-based features like wetlands, resilient shorelines, urban tree canopies, natural forests and healthy watersheds to improve quality of life and sustainability for communities.

Grant sizes:

  • Category 1: Adaptation through conservation projects - $200,000 - $500,000
  • Category 2: Community capacity building and demonstration projects - $200,000 - $500,000
  • Category 3: Affordable housing and small business adaptation - $100,000 - $500,000

For more information, visit the NFWF Resilient Communities Program page (leaves DEC website).

Leadership in Community Resilience Grant Program

About: The National League of Cities 2021 Leadership in Community Resilience program accepted proposals from cities seeking additional funding for resilience-related projects. Each city selected for the 2021 cohort will receive $10,000 in financial support, and customized support from both NLC and the Resilient Cities Network (formerly 100RC). For selection criteria and how to apply visit their website (leaves DEC website).

Arbor Day Foundation Reforestation Program

About: The program helps meet the needs of forests recovering from fire, storms, disease and insect damage and other threats. They are seeking larger-scale projects of 5,000 trees or more and provide funding only for the cost of seedlings. For more information, read the Reforestation program FAQ (leaves DEC website)

This program is open twice a year for spring and fall planting, the application is available online (leaves DEC website).

People Parks and Power (P3)

About: People Parks and Power is a national intitiative for green space, health equity, and racial justice. This program supports community based organizations working in urban and low income communities of color across the US.

Visit the Prevention Institute P3 program website for the call for proposals (leaves DEC website).

National Grid Project C

About: If your community is in a National Grid service area, you may qualify for grants in one of their 3 categories: Neighborhood investment, Small business tech assistance, or Adopt a Park. These programs aim to create more equitable futures for communities National Grid serves. Visit the Project C website for more information on each program and how to apply (leaves DEC website).

Other Funding Sources

Wild & Scenic Rivers Community Watershed Science Funding

Application period frequency: Annual

Eligibility: Nonprofit organizations

About: River Network and the National Park Service (NPS) are excited to announce a funding opportunity for nonprofit organizations working on community watershed science activities on NPS administered Wild and Scenic Rivers and Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers. Activities that meet the goals of this funding include, a) Water quality, quantity and habitat monitoring; b) Plant and animal inventory and monitoring; c) Quantification of pollution sources (including trash); and d) Stream restoration activities using green infrastructure (e.g. riparian restoration, habitat improvement).

Grant sizes: Groups are eligible to apply for one grant of $3,000-$10,000.

For more information visit the webpage (leaves DEC website).

Hardwood Forestry Fund Project

Application period frequency: Annual

Eligibility: Projects on public land including federal, state, local, or university land or property owned by nonprofits

About: A natural resources professional should submit the application, and projects should include planting trees from the preferred species list and a sustainable management plan.

For the complete project details and how to apply, visit the website (leaves DEC website).

National Wildlife Federation Trees For Wildlife

Last open dates: Applications usually open in spring and fall

Application period frequency: Twice per year

About: Visit the NWF website for details on how to apply and host a tree planting project (leaves DEC website).

National League of Cities 2021 Leadership in Community Resilience

About: This program accepted proposals from cities seeking additional funding for resilience-related projects. Each city selected for the 2021 cohort will receive $10,000 in financial support, and customized support from both NLC and the Resilient Cities Network (formerly 100RC). Visit their website for more information (leaves DEC website).

More about Managing Your Community Forest:

  • Tree Ordinances - A tree ordinance provides the framework for managing the community forest. It provides legal authority for conducting forestry programs; defining municipal responsibility for public and private trees; and passing regulations and setting minimum standards for management.