Chicago Region Trees Initiative

Urban and Community Forestry Grants

Find opportunities for grant funding related to urban forestry and environmental initiatives.

Content Detail

A variety of public and private funding opportunities may be available for your organization to accomplish your environmental and forestry goals, some of which are managed by The Morton Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI).

Browse these resources to find grants that can help you plant and care for trees, expand your municipal or nonprofit environmental programs, tackle invasive species in your community, plant pollinator gardens, enhance your community advocacy efforts, and more!

Read the Request for Proposals (RFP) section to determine if your entity is eligible to apply.

The tabs on the left summarize grant options provided through CRTI and other entities.

To help you determine your community needs and where to focus your efforts, we encourage you to check out the Community Needs and Priority Areas section. This information includes resources for developing a compelling narrative for your grant application and proposal.

For CRTI-administered grants, we offer free application assistance. Reach out to the grant contact on the RFP for more information.

Tree Equity Grants for Disadvantaged Communities

Funding for projects to enhance urban and community forestry in nature-deprived populations and disadvantaged communities is now available from the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry allocation of the Inflation Reduction Act. This request for proposals provides funding assistance to nonprofits, government entities, and other eligible groups described in the Request for Proposals (RFP). All projects must occur in and directly benefit disadvantaged areas.

Grant awards are available for a minimum of $25,000 and a maximum of $500,000. For all eligible projects, there is no match requirement.

Projects funded through this proposal must directly benefit disadvantaged populations of the community as defined by the Climate and Economic Justice Screening tool, HUD Opportunity Zones, and EPA EJ Screen. To view all eligible areas, please see this map. Program areas funded through this proposal must increase tree canopy, improve forest health, or enhance community forestry programs in disadvantaged areas.

Application Deadline: Friday, September 13, 2024 at 5:00 p.m.

The Morton Arboretum’s Chicago Region Trees Initiative will be hosting a virtual webinar regarding the grant opportunity on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. This webinar will be recorded. Register here >

Requested Notice of Intent

To ensure an efficient and streamlined application process, we request that all potential applicants submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) before the formal grant application. The NOI is a nonbinding expression of your intent to apply and will aid us in planning for the upcoming grant review process.

Please submit your NOI by Friday, August 16, 2024, using the form available here. If you miss the August 16 deadline, please contact Grants.CRTI@mortonarb.org as soon as possible to express your intent.

Submit Notice of Intent (Deadline August 16, 2024)

Access the Request for Proposals here >

Access the Application here >

Urban and Community Forestry Grant for Government Entities

The following communities received grant awards in 2024 to enhance urban and community forestry in nature-deprived populations.

Belvidere

Belvidere Park District

City of Blue Island

Bolingbrook Park District

City of Burbank

City of Effingham

City of Elgin

Village of Franklin Park

Village of Hazel Crest

Village of Hillside

Town of Normal

City of Peoria

Roselle Park District

Round Lake Area Park District

Skokie Park District

Village of Streamwood

Forest Preserves of Winnebago County

Inventory and Management Plan Grant for Communities Over 75,000 Residents

The following municipalities and associated park districts received grant awards in 2024 to conduct an inventory of public trees and create an Urban and Community Forest Management Plan.

City of Chicago

Chicago Park District

Town of Cicero

City of Joliet

Rockford Park District

2023–2025 Urban and Community Forestry Grant

The following communities received grant awards in 2024 to improve forest health resulting from emerald ash borer damage or for emerald ash borer prevention.

Beckemeyer

North Berwyn Park District

Forest Preserve District of Cook County

Evergreen Park

Freeport Park District

Glenview

Naperville

Pana

River Forest

Roselle Park District

South Barrington

Warrenville

Washington Park District

Wood Dale

Grant Eligibility and SAM Registration

Your organization may need to fulfill certain requirements to receive grant funds.

Read the Request for Proposals (RFP) or Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) carefully to ensure that your entity is eligible to receive the offered funding.

CRTI recommends reaching out to the grant coordinator for each grant that interests you to talk about your proposed project before you start your application. This will help you to use your time and personnel wisely and you can make sure you have a viable project before starting. The grant coordinator contact information is typically listed in the RFP or NOFO.

State and federally funded grants require your organization to have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) and an active enrollment in the federal System for Award Management (SAM).

Registration is free; it is required in order to receive funds through CRTI and many other governmental entities. The registration process can take several weeks to complete.

Register or renew your organization’s SAM info >

Watch this short video on how to acquire a Unique Entity ID for your organization >

Watch this instructional video to learn how to register your organization in the SAM database >

Federal Resources

Additionally, many new opportunities are being made available under the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will allow communities to access critical funds. In September 2022, 10 federal departments and agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Promoting Equitable Access to Nature in Nature-Deprived Communities. This MOU addresses nature deprivation in communities across the country, helping to direct these funds to where they are needed most and standing up the federal Nature in Communities Committee. The Nature in Communities Committee is dedicated to effectively identifying communities with nature access needs and to meaningfully engaging in community-led and community-driven solutions. Below is a link to a list of programs and local contacts and links to additional resources that could advance environmental justice and climate goals within Chicago specifically.

Federal Resources to Address Access to Nature in Chicago >

Inflation Reduction Act Guidebook >

Contacts for EPA specific programs >

Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program >

DOT Navigator > 

Community Needs and Priority Areas

Determining your priorities as an organization is an important first step before applying for any grants.

When deciding if your organization should pursue a grant opportunity, ask the following questions:

  1. What does your community need?
  2. Is this grant opportunity in alignment with your existing mission?
  3. Do you have the capacity and resources to follow through on your commitments?
  4. Will the deliverables of the grant serve your needs as an organization or community?
  5. Who else needs to be involved for a stronger and more meaningful project? Including multiple personnel and other partners in your proposal can greatly enhance your capacity and project outcomes.

Most funders have specific goals they wish to accomplish through the funding, and most grants are offered to help the funders reach their strategic goals. Be sure to read the request for proposal closely and look at the funder’s strategic plan to determine what key goals and outcomes they are working to achieve. The funder will often reference these plans in their request for proposal.

Some important federal and state of Illinois plans to consider include:

USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Ten-Year Action Plan

The plan’s purpose is to expand awareness of the benefits that urban forests provide to communities throughout the nation and to increase investments in urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

Illinois Forest Action Plan

This statewide resource and strategy is meant to guide forestry efforts in Illinois.

Priority Areas in Our Urban Forest

The resources below can also help you determine your community’s specific needs for increasing tree canopy.

Municipal Canopy Summaries

These reports summarize the canopy cover, plantable space, and relative proportion of land use types for each municipality in the seven-county Chicago region (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties). They also compare those characteristics to similar communities and quantify some of the benefits these trees provide.

Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool

This government-sponsored mapping tool uses various environmental and economic factors to determine if a census tract is considered underserved or disadvantaged in the United States.

CRTI Priority Maps

This story map integrates canopy, temperature, air quality, and socio-economic vulnerability to determine priority areas in the Chicago region.

Tree Equity Score

This scoring index uses canopy, population density, income, health, and other socioeconomic factors to determine how a community’s tree equity compares to others around the United States.

Other public and private funding sources may be available for your organization.

Browse the list below to determine if a funding opportunity is right for your goals.

Accordion List

  • Support to local governments, nonprofit agencies, the region’s transit service boards, and other organizations looking to plan and implement projects that will benefit the community and the region as a whole.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency offers no or low interest loans to clean up brownfield sites that have already been assessed for contamination.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources funds a field trip to study some aspect of Illinois’ biodiversity. Applications are typically due in January.

    Learn more about the program >

  • Multiple grants through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources provide funds for new recreational facilities such as parks and playgrounds. The Bikeways Program provides for bike trail enhancement and development. The Boat Access program provides for new and improved boat accesses. The Snowmobile Access and Development program provides for new and improved snowmobile trails and trail access.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources facilitates planting of native plants in schoolyards. Applications are typically due in January.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Office of Resource Conservation’s Division of Wildlife Resources administers four special grant programs that are funded by Illinois sportsmen through the purchase of Habitat Stamps and Migratory Waterfowl Stamps. These are the Illinois Habitat Fund, State Pheasant Fund, State Furbearer Fund, and the Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Fund. Together, these programs are designed to protect, acquire, enhance, or manage wildlife habitat and to support limited research and educational programs to further advance this mission.

    Learn more about the program >

  • Periodically, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources awards funding to public landowners to conduct urban forestry practices. This includes inventories, planting, management plans, and ordinances. Contact Colette Copic at ccopic@mortonarb.org for more information.

  • The IFDC periodically has small grants available for projects that support forestry practices and improvement of forests in the state of Illinois.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency offers funding to demonstrate green infrastructure best management practices to control stormwater runoff for water quality protection in Illinois.

    Learn more about the program >

  • Funding for this grant program is derived from the Illinois Natural Areas Acquisition Fund (NAAF) and must be used by the Department of Natural Resources for the acquisition, protection, and stewardship of natural areas, including habitats for endangered and threatened species (Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Act, 525 ILCS 35/14). The Illinois Natural Areas Stewardship Grant Program was established to make grants to conservation land trusts for the purpose of promoting stewardship actions on eligible lands.

    Learn more about the program >

  • To be eligible for enhancement funding, a project must be located on public property and must demonstrate a relationship to surface transportation. The enhancement projects must enhance the transportation system either by serving a transportation need or providing a transportation use or benefit. Activities are not eligible if they are routine maintenance projects.

    Learn more about the program >

  • Keep America Beautiful provides grant opportunities to support communities in preventing littering, promoting recycling, and building clean, green, and beautiful neighborhoods. Through a coalition of corporate sponsors, Keep America Beautiful seeks innovative grant applications for programs that will unify communities as they implement community improvement projects.

    Learn more about the program >

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service provides grants of up to $1 million to coastal and Great Lakes states as well as US territories to protect, restore, and enhance coastal wetland ecosystems and associated uplands. States are selected to participate.

    Learn more about the program >

  • Houses of worship are required to conduct outreach within their own congregation and into surrounding communities through workshops, garden tours, native plant sales, and other forms of education. These efforts contribute to the development of networks of faith communities and community partners working together to build healthy habitats and communities.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency provides opportunities to local units of government and other organizations to protect water quality in Illinois.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources provides funding assistance to local government agencies for acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources helps public museums in Illinois expand and upgrade facilities and create new exhibits and other physical facilities to enhance public museums’ abilities to meet their mission.​

    Learn more about the program >

  • The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency provides funds to assist groups that have established a recurring stream or lakeshore cleanup

    Learn more about the program >

  • Community Grants are awarded for collaborative community-based projects, activities or events supporting SFI’s mission to advance sustainability through forest-focused collaborations, across the U.S. and Canada.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) provides funding on a competitive basis to projects that sustain, restore and enhance our nation’s fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. Browse NFWF’s conservation programs and learn how to apply for a grant.

    Learn more about the program >

  • Through the TD Green Space Grants program, municipalities in the United States and Canada are eligible to receive grants in support of local forestry projects in the areas of great need within a community.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The TREE Fund provides a wide range of grants to fund forestry related education programs.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The TREE Fund provides a wide range of research grants on forestry and arboriculture.

    Learn more about the program >

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service, State, Private & Tribal Forestry, is requesting applications for the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (Community Forest Program or CFP). The purpose of the program is to establish community forests by protecting forestland from conversion to non-forest uses and provide community benefits including public recreation, environmental and economic benefits, and forest-based educational programs. Public access is required for all projects. To apply, interested local government and nonprofit applicants must submit applications to the State Forester where the property is located. Tribal applicants must submit applications to equivalent Tribal government officials. All applications must be received by State Foresters or Tribal governments by January 12, 2024.

    Learn more about the program >