Maryland to use some Inflation Reduction Act funds to boost community forestry projects

25 January 2024- The Maryland Forest Service is offering a new grant program to distribute $4.8 million in federal Inflation Reduction Act funds towards urban and community forestry projects during the next four years. 

The Community Forestry Catalyst Fund expands resources for Maryland’s ambitious commitment to enhance its forest cover and tree canopy through the state’s 5 Million Trees for Maryland initiative and existing programs, like the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Urban Trees Grant Program. These programs prioritize tree plantings where they can provide the greatest benefits to people, such as heat island abatement, air quality regulation, and flooding reduction. 

“We’ve seen strong evidence in the past 30 years that the forest conservation laws we have in Maryland are effective at curbing the amount of forest lost during development,” said Maryland Forest Service Director Anne Hairston-Strang. “But what the science is telling us today is that we have to look beyond the high-level metrics and start contending with how the location and health of those trees influence things like quality of life, public health, and climate resilience.”

2022 study commissioned by the Maryland General Assembly and carried out by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agroecology found that while statewide tree canopy coverage remains relatively stable at 40%, this statistic masks a worrying trend of forest loss in counties where development pressure is high. 

Additionally, an established body of research shows that trees and forests in urban and suburban areas provide taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits annually through direct services like air and water quality regulation, flood and erosion control, and a reduction of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. 

The  first application window is open now through March 15. Proposals will be considered under three tracks: Site Readiness, Implementation, and Capacity Building, with the multi-year awards ranging from $5,000 to $200,000 each. A second application window will open in the summer to give prospective applicants flexibility to align their award period with other available resources. 

Local governments, nonprofits, educational institutions, and other qualified applicants should visit the Catalyst Fund page on the Catalyst Fund page on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website for more information on applying. Interest applicants can also contact J.T. Bowers, associate director of the Maryland Forest Service, at justin.bowers@maryland.gov. The Maryland Forest Service has a statewide staff of foresters, technicians, and specialists available to provide technical assistance to applicants as needed.