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Texas A&M Forest Service Awards Historic $15.4 Million

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Twenty-two Texas cities, neighborhoods, non-profit organizations, and schools received grant funding totaling $15.4 million through the Texas A&M Forest Service Community Forestry Grants Program.

The grants will directly fund recipients’ tree planting, maintenance, and community forestry planning and education efforts as part of their more extensive, unique urban forestry solution campaigns. The program also places a key emphasis on increasing schoolyard tree canopy coverage to 30% of a school’s campus to create accessible community treescapes.

Gretchen Riley, the Texas A&M Forest Service Systems Department Head, said they were overjoyed with the number of communities receiving grants this year. We received many excellent grant applications that meet several urban forestry needs. Beyond applications, organizations and communities across the state expressed interest in learning more about how to advance community forestry. These applications are a testament to the demand for a program such as this.”

The goal of the Community Forestry Grants program is to build healthier urban and community forests throughout the state, which are essential for the economic, environmental, physical, and mental well-being of all Texans. The strategy of these grants is to spearhead local programs across the state to address nature-based solutions to issues facing communities today.

“The impact that trees have on our mental and physical health is astounding,” said Riley. Coordinating with schools across the state to focus efforts on increasing tree coverage at schools will positively impact the mental and physical health of students and provide them with hands-on forestry education and appreciation.”

The 2024 Community Forestry Grants Program awarded grants for eight categories.

Awarded in the category of climate resiliency was Ecology Action of Texas, Austin, $50,000.

Texas Trees Foundation, Dallas, was awarded $550,000 in the category of geospatial analysis for a statewide project.

The city of Lewisville Parks and Recreation Department was awarded $50,000 in the category of human health equity and accessibility.

Awarded in the category of municipal forester was the City of Duncanville, $100,000.

Awarded in the category of schoolyard forests was the City of McAllen, $2,730,000; the City of Pharr, $3,120,000; Rio Grande International Study Center, Laredo, $3,120,000; and Texas Trees Foundation, Dallas, for projects in Donna and Mercedes, $5,460,000.

The City of Ennis Parks and Recreation received $10,000, the City of Lewisville Parks and Recreation Department $10,000, and the town of Flower Mound $10,000 in the category of Tree City USA.

Awarded in the tree planting category was Alief Super Neighborhood Council #25, Houston, $20,000; City of Denton, $20,000; City of Kaufman, $16,200; City of Laredo Environmental Services, $16,000; City of McAllen Parks and Recreation Department, $15,000; City of North Richland Hills, $20,000; City of Socorro, $14,374; Eco El Paso, LLC, El Paso, $20,000; and Lubbock Memorial Arboretum Foundation Inc, Lubbock, $20,000.

As a bonus ward, due to previous unallocated funding and the applicant’s unique landscape-scale solution proposal, a project partnership between Texas Tech University, the city of Lubbock, and the Heart of Lubbock Neighborhood Association, Lubbock, was awarded $50,000.

Grant recipients will receive funding and begin their initiatives in June 2024.

They established the Texas A&M Forest Service Community Forestry Grants program in 2022 to address Texas communities’ needs for urban forestry investment. Previous recipients of this grant include the City of College Station and Bexar Branches Alliance, a San Antonio non-profit.

The grants program is funded through federal and state funding, which significantly increased from $100,000 in 2022 to $16.65 million in 2023, in part due to the USDA Forest Service and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“These grants are critical to communities and organizations throughout the state in continuing proactive forestry practices,” said Al Davis, Texas A&M Forest Service Director. “By investing in our communities today, we are ensuring healthy forests and communities for all to benefit from.”