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Oregon’s urban forests earn a historic funding opportunity

Four sets of gloved hands surround the base of a small tree.
Jennifer Killian
Oregon Department of Forestry

The Oregon Department of Forestry has received a game-changing sum in federal funding for urban and community forest programs.

The Inflation Reduction Act funding totals more than $26 million—nearly 100 times more than the program typically receives. Evan Elderbrock is with the ODF. He said $10 million will go to Oregon’s federally recognized tribes. About $12.5 million will be distributed through a grant program, meant to benefit disadvantaged communities. Grants may be for tree planting and maintenance, education or outreach.

“Something that we’re really hoping gets a lot of support here is school greening," said Elderbrock. "We’ve identified school campuses as one of the lowest, tree covered land uses in urban areas.” He said all Title 1 school campuses are eligible.

Hilary Olivos-Rood, the administrator for the sub-awards, said ODF has assistance available now for those who’ve never applied for grants before. A form for eligibility and assistance is on the ODF website. Proposals can be submitted starting in July. Project funding will range from $10,000 to $750,000 and can be spent over the next four years.

Elderbrock said he hopes the influx of federal funding springboards further investment in urban and community forests. He said as urban environments are becoming hotter, and heat-related health issues are on the rise, planting trees and enhancing green spaces can benefit physical and mental wellbeing.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.