Cedar Rapids' collaborative effort, ReLeaf Cedar Rapids, has garnered national recognition through the award of a $6 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USDA). This commendable achievement, announced on September 14 at Green Square, saw the presence of esteemed individuals including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, alongside forest service representatives and Department of Agriculture officials. 

How do you get the grant?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "The Forest Service is authorized under several laws to collaborate and work with partners to carry out projects. The three major pathways for receiving federal funding to help carry out projects are 1) grants and cooperative agreements, 2) partnership agreements, and 3) contracts.

Grants and cooperative agreements are best if the partnership serves a public good and meets the intent of a specified assistance authority. Partnership agreements are best if partners wish to jointly participate in project development and have mutual interest and benefit with the agency. Contracts are best if the project primarily benefits a Forest Service purpose, and no cost-sharing is expected."

The USDA's website says  "A Forest Service employee will be able to help guide you to the right method for your need."  They will customize it just for you.

What comes next?

This substantial grant is specifically earmarked for disadvantaged neighborhoods within the community, exemplifying a commitment to equitable urban development. Among 385 recipients nationwide, Cedar Rapids stands out for its innovative approach to enhancing urban environments through reforestation initiatives. 

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ReLeaf Cedar Rapids is part of a comprehensive $37 million, ten-year plan aimed at revitalizing the city's green spaces. Now entering its third year of implementation, the program has already made significant strides with over 7,000 trees planted out of a projected 42,500 for public areas. Driving the fundraising efforts is Trees Forever, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental conservation, which spearheads initiatives to support the replanting of trees across the city. 

This summer, Cedar Rapids residents are invited to participate in the "Grow the Love" campaign, an initiative launched by Trees Forever to rally community support and engagement in the ongoing reforestation efforts. By nurturing a culture of environmental stewardship and collaboration, ReLeaf Cedar Rapids embodies a sustainable vision for urban development, prioritizing not only the beautification of the city but also the promotion of better air quality and environmental resilience. 

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