Press Release: Chicago Region Trees Initiative opens applications for urban forestry IRA sub-grants

Illinois government entities can apply now

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LISLE, Ill. (Dec. 5, 2023)—The Morton Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) is accepting applications now through early 2024 for competitive sub-grants totaling $6.86 million for government entities in disadvantaged Illinois communities to improve their urban tree canopy.

The sub-grants are provided through Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), administered by CRTI. The grants are part of a historic $1.5 billion federal investment to boost urban tree cover in communities nationwide.

The sub-grants are available for communities that meet the federal requirements as disadvantaged. They will run for up to four years and do not require matching funds, helping to eliminate funding barriers for underserved communities that often lack the capacity, training or resources to develop an urban forestry program.

“This IRA grant funding is a game-changer for disadvantaged and underserved Illinois communities,” said CRTI Community Manager Zach Wirtz. “Improving community forests will help to mitigate flooding, reduce urban heat islands and enhance the lives of nearby residents, among many other benefits.”

CRTI is currently administering two sub-grant opportunities for Illinois government entities with the following specific requirements:

  1. Urban and Community Forestry Grant for Government Entities: Government entities, in Illinois that are working in disadvantaged communities, including municipalities, park districts, counties, Tribal governments, townships, forest preserves and other local units of government, can apply to receive $25,000 to $150,000 for projects that increase tree canopy, improve forest health and create or enhance community forestry programs in disadvantaged areas. In addition, all funded projects must complete the development or enhancement of a tree protection ordinance (prior to completion of the grant) to meet the basic standards in the Request for Proposals. These ordinances will set standards of care for newly planted trees and help to ensure tree canopy is maintained and protected long after the grant ends. Applications are due by March 1, 2024.
  2. Tree Inventory and Management Plan Grant for Communities over 75,000 Residents: Illinois municipalities with over 75,000 residents can apply for up to $3 million to conduct public tree inventories within their boundaries and create Urban and Community Forest Management Plans based on that inventory. Application of some portion of the Management Plan is required as part of the project, coupled with strategies for maintaining or improving the tree canopy in the municipality’s disadvantaged areas. Applications are due by March 1, 2024.

Applications for the sub-grants are available at

More than 500 Illinois municipalities contain areas considered to be disadvantaged, based on the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, EPA EJ Screening Tool, and HUD Opportunity Zones. A map of areas eligible for funding, including parks and other public lands, is available on the Illinois IRA Screening Tool. The Municipal IRA (MIRA) Screening Tool also identifies municipalities that are eligible for funding.