Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grants

Annual grant opportunity for municipalities and nonprofit groups in Massachusetts to improve and protect their urban forests. These 50/50 matching grants help develop, grow and sustain programs that plant, protect and maintain a community's public tree resources and develop partnerships with residents and community institutions.

Table of Contents


This Challenge program consists of 50-50 matching grants (projects serving environmental justice neighborhoods are 75-25 grant match.  See Environmental Justice section for details.) offered to municipalities and non-profit groups in Massachusetts communities of all sizes for the purpose of building local capacity for excellent urban and community forestry at the local and regional level.

For the purpose of these grants, Urban and Community Forestry refers to professional management (planting, protection and maintenance) of a municipality's public tree resources in partnership with residents and community institutions.

Additional Resources   for Overview

Program Details

Intent to Apply October 1; Final Application November 1

This grant program seeks to fund projects which will result in sustained improvements in local capacity for excellent urban and community forestry management. 

Intent to Apply Deadline:  October 1st

Application Deadline:  November 1st

Match Rate:  50/50

Match Rate for Environmental Justice Projects:  75/25

Key Actions   for Program Details

Eligible Applicants and Sample Projects

Eligible groups include all units of local government and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations. Local tree departments and citizen tree groups are specifically encouraged to apply.

Here are some examples of eligible projects:

  • Building and Strengthening Citizen Advocacy and Action Organizations: develop, strengthen or sustain citizen groups or non-profit organizations that advocate and / or act to promote excellent urban and community forestry management.
  • Community Wood Bank Special Grant Opportunity: establish or expand existing community efforts to address household energy insecurity with local forests by recycling decommissioned trees into firewood and distributing this resource to residents in need of heating assistance.
  • Developing and Adopting Tree and Forest Ordinances and Policies: develop, approve and implement new ordinances, zoning regulations or written policies that will result in improved tree and forest management and the preservation of tree canopy on a community scale.
  • Securing or Training Professional Staff: All Massachusetts communities should have a qualified Tree Warden with professional training. Communities over 10,000 are required to do so by law. Projects that result in sustained improvements in professional staffing in a municipality's urban and community forestry program are eligible.
  • Develop and Implement Urban Forestry Management Plan: development and implementation of plans that guide the strategic management of urban forest resources at the community level.
  • Completing Strategic Community Tree Plantings and "Heritage" Tree Care Projects: high visibility community tree plantings that enhance environmental and aesthetic quality, strengthen community involvement, and follow the principles of planting the right trees in the right places.  Also projects that include professional arborist care of "Heritage" trees (those larger trees over 32" in diameter that have a documented cultural and/or historical significance) if these projects also result in enhanced public awareness and support for urban and community forestry and / or improved community tree care.
  • Other Projects: well-conceived and executed projects which result in sustained improvements to urban and community forestry management in other areas.

Key Actions   for Eligible Applicants and Sample Projects

Projects for Environmental Justice neighborhoods

The DCR, in collaboration with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA). offers competitive challenge grants for projects that serve environmental justice (EJ) populations. If your town or city is home to environmental justice neighborhoods and grant work will serve environmental justice populations, you can apply as an Environmental Justice applicant for a 75-25 matching grant. Projects must take place entirely within EJ areas.

Eligible groups include all units of local government and nonprofit 501(c) (3) organizations that are working in environmental justice communities in Massachusetts. As a result of EOEEA’s 2002 Environmental Justice Policy, MassGIS has identified and mapped EJ populations.

Additional Resources   for Projects for Environmental Justice neighborhoods

Intent to Apply

Due by October 1

If you or your organization is considering applying for this grant, you must submit this Intent to Apply Form. You may submit it at any during the year, and our staff will follow up with you on your idea. Final full proposals are due once a year on November 1. Your Intent to Apply Form must be received at least one month in advance of this deadline

Key Actions   for Intent to Apply

Additional Resources   for Intent to Apply

Evaluation Criteria

An Evaluation Committee will score and rank the applications based on their relative strengths. The Committee will make recommendations on applications to the DCR Commissioner and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, who will make final determinations.

The criteria for rating proposals include:

  1. Application is complete, detailed, and clearly presented 
  2. Proposal will result in sustained improvements in local capacity for excellent urban and community forestry management in one or more of the six areas identified above 
  3. Project involves diverse members of the community in planning and implementation
  4. Budget and timeline are reasonable, accurate, and clearly presented
  5. Community is a Tree City USA community
  6. Previous experience with the DCR UCF grant program

Grant Award

Once the grants are awarded, recipients are reimbursed for satisfactory work completed within the contract period. (Projects cannot begin until the contract is signed by the Commissioner of the DCR.) Funds are not provided up front. Final receipts for reimbursement must be submitted along with verification of matching expenses or in-kind services. Completed reimbursement forms shall be submitted to the Department within 30 days of contract completion. Grantees can expect reimbursement within 45 days of receipt submittal.

Additional Resources   for Grant Award

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