The U.S. Forest Service is Accepting Applications for the Community Forest Program – Due January 11, 2021

The U.S. Forest Service is requesting applications for the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (Community Forest Program). The maximum award amount is $600,000 with a matching requirement of 50 percent.

What is the Community Forest Program? The Community Forest Program (CFP) of the Forest Service offers a unique opportunity for communities to acquire and conserve forests that provide public access and recreational opportunities, protect vital water supplies and wildlife habitat, serve as demonstration sites for private forest landowners, and provide economic benefits from timber and non-timber products.

Who may apply for funding under this program? Eligible applicants include: a local governmental entity, federally recognized Indian Tribe (including Alaska Native Corporations), or a qualified nonprofit organization that is qualified to acquire and manage land. Individuals are not eligible to receive funds through this program.

What types of lands are eligible for this project? Lands must be private forest that is at least five acres in size, suitable to sustain natural vegetation, and at least 75 percent forested. The lands must also be threatened by conversion to non-forest uses, must not be held in trust by the United States on behalf of any Indian Tribe, must not be Tribal allotment lands, must be offered for sale by a willing seller, and if acquired by an eligible entity, must provide defined community benefits under CFP and allow public access. Full fee title acquisition is required and conservation easements are not eligible.

All local governments and qualified nonprofit organizations’ applications must be submitted to the State Forester where lands are located (see the State Forester’s member roster here). All Tribal applications must be submitted to the equivalent Tribal officials.

Is technical assistance provided through this project? Technical assistance funds, totaling not more than 10 percent of all funds, may be allocated to State Foresters and equivalent officials of the Indian tribe. Technical assistance, if provided, will be awarded at the time of the grant. Applicants shall work with State Foresters and equivalent officials of the Indian Tribe to determine technical assistance needs and include the technical assistance request in the project budget.

What kind of applications will receive priority consideration? Using the criteria described below, to the extent practicable, the Forest Service will give priority to applications that maximize the delivery of community benefits, as defined in the final rule (see section § 230.2 of the final rule); and, the Forest Service will evaluate all applications received by the State Foresters or equivalent Tribal government officials and award grants based on the following criteria:

1. Type and extent of community benefits provided, including to underserved communities. Community benefits are defined in the final program rule as:

  • Economic benefits, such as timber and non-timber products resulting from sustainable forest management, recreation and tourism;
  • Environmental benefits, including clean air and water, stormwater management, and wildlife habitat;
  • Benefits from forest-based experiential learning, including K–12 conservation education programs; vocational education programs in disciplines such as forestry and environmental biology; and environmental education through individual study or voluntary participation in programs offered by organizations such as 4-H, Boy or Girl Scouts, Master Gardeners, etc.;
  • Benefits from serving as replicable models of effective forest stewardship for private landowners; and
  • Recreational benefits such as hiking, hunting, and fishing secured through public access.

2. Extent and nature of community engagement, including participation by marginalized communities, in the establishment and long-term management of the community forest;

3. Amount of cost share leveraged;

4. Extent to which the community forest contributes to a landscape conservation initiative, as well as any applicable environmental justice initiatives;

5. Extent of due diligence completed on the project, including cost share committed and status of appraisal;

6. Likelihood that, unprotected, the property would be converted to non-forest uses; and

7. Costs to the Federal Government.

What is the funding availability and maximum award amount? Funds have not yet been appropriated for CFP in FY 2021. Individual grant applications may not exceed $600,000, which does not include technical assistance requests.

Is there a cost-sharing/matching requirement? All applicants must demonstrate a 50 percent match of the total project cost. The match can include cash, in-kind services, or donations, which shall be from a non-Federal source.

What is the CFP project duration? The initial grant period shall be for two years, and acquisition of lands should occur within that timeframe. Lands acquired prior to the grant award are not eligible for CFP funding. The grant may be reasonably extended by the Forest Service when necessary to accommodate unforeseen circumstances in the land acquisition process.

What is the application process and when it its deadline? Interested local government and nonprofit applicants must submit applications to the State Forester where the property is located. Tribal applicants must submit applications to the equivalent Tribal government official. All applications, either hardcopy or electronic, must be received by State Foresters or Tribal governments by January 11, 2021.

All applicants must also send an email to SM.FS.CFP@usda.gov to confirm an application has been submitted for funding consideration.

The full Request for Applications is available here.

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at grants@morrisonco.net or call us at 530-893-4764.

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