DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program Accepting Grant Applications
March 7, 2023
Projects in areas of high environmental health disparities qualify for a reduced match rate as DNR strives for statewide urban tree equity
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is accepting applications this month for the 2023-2024 round of grant funding for urban and community forestry projects in the Evergreen State.
Applicants must fill out the Washington Community Forestry Assistance Grant Submission Form online by 4 p.m. local time on March 31. Successful applicants must complete their projects by June 1, 2024.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is making $350,000 available in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 to support increasing urban tree canopy, restoration of public parks and open spaces, mapping of urban forests, drafting of local tree ordinances, and more.
With this round of funding, the agency will have awarded $900,000 in urban forestry grants during the 2021-2023 biennium. The dollar amount for 2023 is the second largest in agency history, behind the $550,000 given to nearly two dozen projects in 2022.
“Projects funded by our grant program will ensure a better future for our children, and the generations to come,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “Access to clean air, open spaces, and nature should be a basic right. The reality is that in cities across our state, lower income communities and communities of color more often live in areas full of roads, parking lots, and extremely limited numbers of trees and parks. As temperatures rise and disparities widen, urban trees are no longer a nice to have, they are a must have.”
Commissioner Franz attended events last month to celebrate successful urban forestry projects in Tacoma and Burien that received grant funding from DNR.
She is also seeking an $8 million investment from the Washington State Legislature to expand the urban forestry grant program, establish a Conservation Corps program for urban forestry, and plant tens of thousands of trees across the state. An investment of that size would allow DNR to help communities with significant inequities in urban tree canopy, with the worst urban heat islands, and with poor air quality.
The $550,000 DNR awarded last year represented about half of the total funding requests received.
“We’re experiencing a level of passion for urban forestry never seen before in Washington,” said Ben Thompson, DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program manager. “Our program has grown in the last few years from two staff members to nine, and the impact our dollars are having has never been more wide-reaching. We are on the cusp of enacting transformational change in how Washington leaders not only maintain, but also grow urban forests where they are most needed.”
House Bill 1216 mandates DNR obligate 50 percent of its urban forestry resources to benefit residents of highly impacted communities – census blocks that score at least an eight on the Environmental Health Disparities Map maintained by the Washington State Department of Health. Eight projects in those census blocks received grant funding in 2022.
DNR staff will host a webinar to review timelines and minimum requirements for grants at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 10. People interested in attending the webinar must register here in advance. The webinar will also be recorded and available https://www.dnr.wa.gov/urbanforestry under “Grants and Financial Assistance.”
Eligible applicants include 501c3 nonprofit organizations, cities, towns, counties, tribes, educational institutions, and special taxing districts such as conservation districts.