$2.2 million in Grants Boost Creative Financial Approaches to Forest Management and Environmental Challenges

$2.2 million in Grants Boost Creative Financial Approaches to Forest Management and Environmental Challenges

Grantees will focus on developing finance models that seek to leverage public and private sector capital.

Greenville, S.C.– May 31, 2023 Eleven new grants will support partners and project developers to connect public and private capital to unfunded environmental challenges in National Forests and surrounding landscapes across the United States.

These 11 awards represent the third round of funding from the Innovative Finance for National Forests Grant Program. This partnership is funded and administered by the USDA Forest Service National Partnership Office’s Conservation Finance Program and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment).

“Through the Innovative Finance for National Forests Program the Forest Service is investing in replicable financial solutions that support sustainable land management,” said Associate Deputy Chief of the USDA Forest Service Troy Heithecker. “We are excited to launch a new cohort of projects to pilot, scale, and assess the feasibility of ideas to bring external resources to bear on pressing agency challenges around wildfire risk, watershed health, and recreation infrastructure.”

“These grantees are applying creative solutions to generate funding for pressing forest and natural resource concerns, such as reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire and protecting drinking water supplies,” said Pete Madden, the Endowment’s President and CEO. “We commend the National Partnership Office of the USDA Forest Service for their leadership in this program and are pleased to be their partners.”

Additional information on the Innovative Finance for National Forests competitive grant program is available at https://www.usendowment.org/ifnf/

Innovative Finance for National Forests Spring 2023 Approved Projects

The Innovative Finance for National Forests (IFNF) grant program supports the development and implementation of innovative finance models that leverage private and public capital other than US Forest Service (USFS) annual appropriations to enhance the resilience of the National Forest System (NFS) or adjacent private lands and that seek to deliver commensurate returns to stakeholders. Projects fall into one of three categories:

  • Scaling: Projects in this category enable on-the-ground implementation at a larger scale and/or faster pace by expanding previously piloted models.
  • Pilot: Projects in this category enable on-the-ground implementation of models or approaches that present innovations in securing capital.
  • Feasibility: Projects in this category are early-stage projects that explore an idea via research and development and contribute to new knowledge or tools that could enable novel investment.

Scaling Carbon and Water Benefit Modeling to Attract Forest Investment (Scaling) – Arizona

$500,000 to the Salt River Project (SRP) to attract long-term funding and private investment by quantifying the co-benefits of water and carbon from forest restoration activities in Arizona. SRP will develop a comprehensive project portfolio and finance strategy that packages the water, carbon, and additional co-benefits to help diversify project funding.

Financing Wood Vaults for Forest Resilience (Pilot) – California

$250,000 to Kodama Systems Inc., in collaboration with Blue Forest and The Trust for Public Land, to pilot a new financial approach that leverages the carbon value of wood residue rather than burning it at a cost and emitting carbon, as often occurs. Through this project, potential financial and legal structures will be designed to facilitate the transport of biomass from forest thinning projects to engineered earthen wood vaults where wood is buried in arid environments, sequestering the carbon for centuries. The carbon removal credits generated from the avoided emissions will be sold into the voluntary carbon market to generate cash flows that can be used to cover project costs and/or repay investors.

Scaling the Resilience Fund: Increasing Water Security and Fire Resilience for the Greater Uinta-Wasatch-Cache (Scaling) – Utah

$240,000 to the World Resources Institute to scale the Weber River Watershed Resilience Fund to additional tributaries of the Great Salt Lake, including the Jordan and Bear Rivers. The Resilience Fund pools contributions from public and private entities to leverage state and federal funds for watershed health and wildfire resilience on USFS, state, and private lands and builds an endowment to pay for future maintenance costs. This project focuses on expanding collaboration with partners, including local water utilities Weber Basin Water Conservancy and Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, and increasing the project’s geographic footprint to scale up forest restoration, secure new funders, and generate greater impact for 2.8 million downstream residents. This project builds on Summit County, Utah’s pilot project funded by IFNF in 2021.

Technical Assistance for Wood Utilization Entrepreneurs (Pilot) – California

$225,000 to Blue Forest to provide technical assistance to wood utilization entrepreneurs alongside the deployment of funds through the recently established California Wildfire Innovation Fund, Blue Forest’s private market investment fund for development of the forest restoration sector in California. Technical assistance will support entrepreneurs’ efforts to raise funds, increase capacity, and develop partnerships.

Exemplary Forestry Investment Fund (Pilot) – Maine

$160,000 to Maine Mountain Collaborative to pilot a financial approach that seeks to secure recreation revenues to support management of private timber lands acquired by the Exemplary Forestry Investment Fund. Legal and financial pathways will be established to provide permanent recreational access and infrastructure investment on targeted private timber lands adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest. This project builds on Maine Mountain Collaborative’s 2020 feasibility project funding from IFNF.

Catalyzing Markets for Forestry Co-benefits in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Region (Feasibility) – Great Lakes Region

$150,000 to the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers to create a framework to quantify the co-benefits of tree planting projects in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Region with the purpose of attracting impactful private investments. The project team will complete a gap analysis of existing co-benefit models such as watershed health, biodiversity, and recreational access, work with stakeholders to identify co-benefits with investment potential, and create a roadmap for investment structures.

Cosumnes Watershed Outcomes Bank Development (Feasibility) – California
$150,000 to The Freshwater Trust to develop a Watershed Outcomes Bank framework to leverage and coordinate multiple funding sources and help ensure funds are deployed to the projects that most rapidly achieve watershed resilience targets in the Cosumnes River watershed. Rather than the traditional project-by-project funding approach, the Watershed Outcomes Bank will knit together funding sources from the upper and lower watershed to build a coordinated watershed-scale funding approach.

Activating Giant Sequoia National Monument Recreation through Innovative Finance Opportunities (Feasibility) – California

$150,000 to Save the Redwoods League to identify an innovative, long-term financing strategy for recreation infrastructure at current and future areas of the Western Divide Ranger District of Giant Sequoia National Monument. The project scope includes a future USFS land acquisition and current League-owned property, Alder Creek. The feasibility study will develop a financing model for this private inholding with the long-term goals of improving overall access and visitor experience, reducing future operations and management costs for the agency, and relieving pressure on overburdened recreational assets. Alder Creek, with its hundreds of ancient sequoias, including the fifth largest tree on the planet, is comparable to Yosemite’s famous Mariposa Grove and represents a transformational recreation and conservation opportunity.

Accessing Capital Markets to Support Watershed Health and Manage Wildfire Risk (Feasibility) – Colorado

$150,000 to Multiplier, on behalf of WaterNow Alliance, to create a decision tool to facilitate Colorado public utility investments in watershed health projects. Informed by economic and legal analyses, the project team will create a multi-criteria decision analysis tool for utilities to evaluate and prioritize upstream investments in watershed health and protection. The resulting framework will be disseminated as a roadmap for utility investment in nature-based projects and water infrastructure not owned or controlled by local utilities. Project partners include the Water Center at Penn and One Water Econ. WaterNow is a project of Multiplier which serves as its fiscal sponsor. 

RiverBANK Loan Fund (Feasibility) – Colorado
$150,000 to Coalitions and Collaboratives to explore the potential to create RiverBANK, a revolving loan fund that will leverage private capital as bridge financing for small to medium-sized organizations implementing forest/watershed health and wildfire resilience projects in Colorado adjacent to the Pike-San Isabel National Forest.

Catalyzing Land Acquisition in National Forests through Finance (Feasibility) – USFS Eastern Region
$125,000 to the Sand County Foundation to assess the viability of an interim financing fund to facilitate acquisition of private inholdings in National Forests in the Eastern Region (Region 9). Acquiring inholdings from willing sellers is desirable to meet the objectives of biodiversity conservation and public access to nature for all communities. Bridge financing is necessary to fill the time gap between when a landowner agrees to sell their land and when public funds are available to close a deal. This project will be conducted by the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (a fiscally sponsored project of Sand County Foundation) and Lyme Timber Advisory Services.

Media Contacts

Sophie Beavin, sophie.beavin@usdsa.gov and Nathalie Woolworth, nathalie.woolworth@usda.gov

About the USDA Forest Service National Partnership Office

The USDA Forest Service National Partnership Office Conservation Finance Program leads the way in positioning the Forest Service to leverage sources of capital other than agency appropriations to support priority projects through public-private partnership models.

Aleta Rogers, aleta@usendowment.org, 864-233-7646

About the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities is a not-for-profit public charity working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative, and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities. To learn more about the Endowment, please visit our website at www.usendowment.org.

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