Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced an investment of $11.8 million for streamside forest buffers, converting lawns to meadows and trees, and planting trees in urban communities to help improve water quality and to make the Commonwealth more resilient to climate change.

The grants are made possible through more than $8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money appropriated to the Keystone Tree Fund in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 budget, and other federal and state funds.

“Federal ARPA funds are intended to help us grow our way to recovery from the pandemic through investments in economic revitalization and clean water,” Dunn said. “DCNR worked quickly with a special grant round this fall so that we could get this money on the ground helping Pennsylvania communities.”

Twenty grants are being awarded planting approximately 700 acres of streamside trees statewide, with several partners focusing on planting in the Susquehanna River watershed; 12 grants supporting the TreeVitalize program and similar community tree planting efforts; and projects to change lawns to meadows and trees for pollinators and water quality included in seven grants. Properly planted and maintained, streamside trees and shrubs filter the runoff of sediments and fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops; control erosion; slow stormwater runoff; cool stream temperatures; and improve fish habitat. Converting lawn to a diverse array of native trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and warm season grasses helps keep soil and nutrients in place and offers food and cover for pollinators butterflies, and songbirds. Trees in urban settings promote health and social well-being by removing air pollution, reducing stress, and encouraging physical activity and community ties; help reduce urban temperatures; provide habitat and food for animals; and are valuable green infrastructure to manage stormwater.

Grants include:

  • Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, $3 million, to support riparian buffer plantings and lawn conversions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
  • Chesapeake Conservancy, $900,000, for efforts to delist agriculturally impaired streams by providing funding for roughly 60 acres of riparian forest buffers, establishment of recently planted buffers, and robust partner and landowner engagement;
  • PA Association of Conservation Districts, $100,000, to develop and manage a mini-grant program supporting lawn conversion projects statewide;
  • Willistown Conservation Trust, $260,000 grant to install a lawn conversion demonstration site and support a lawn conversion program for public and private landowners in its Chester County service area;
  • Erie City, $335,000 to complete diverse projects in areas that lack green space and canopy cover, including multifunctional buffer plantings, lawn conversions, and tree plantings; and,
  • Pottstown School District, Montgomery County, $440,000, to plant more than 500 trees on school district properties with a focus on areas in need of green space and tree canopy, Tree Tender trainings and planting events with students.

Visit the DCNR website for a complete list of grants by county.

New Grant Rounds Opening

The 2023 grant round will open on January 17 and close April 5.

The grant programs opening include– Community Recreation & Conservation Planning; Community & Watershed Forestry; Land Acquisition & Conservation; Motorized Trails; Non-Motorized Trails; Park Rehabilitation & Development; and State & Regional Partnerships.

The next ATV/Snowmobile grant round will open February 1 and close March 31.

Visit DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2) webpage for more information.


This post adapted in part from DCNR-released materials as well as a post from our friends and partners in conservation at PA Environment Digest.