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The Department of Agriculture announced a new $50 million round of funding in support of economic development in the forestry sector, including Indian Country.

The funding opportunities are aimed at “building a clean energy economy nationwide” by sparking innovation, creating new markets for wood products and renewable wood energy, and expanding processing capacity, according to a USDA statement. 

Tribes and tribal entities are eligible for the funding. The grant investments will support forest-management projects to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk across all land ownerships. 

Businesses that are engaged in or support the forest products economy are eligible to apply for funding to expand manufacturing capacity. These businesses are vital employers in local communities, especially in tribal or rural communities, USDA said. 

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Cody Desaultel, president of the Intertribal Timber Council, said the grants represented “new tools” for tribes to dive into projects. The opportunity was especially important given the programs’ preference for projects that could have positive environmental impacts.

“Funding for the wood products infrastructure grants give priority to projects using products from tribal forestland and rangeland that have been identified as at high risk for fire, insect, or disease and a high priority for ecological restoration. Historically underserved communities such as tribes will also have a priority consideration,” Desaultel told Tribal Business News via email.

“Tribes have already been successful in securing funds, and I encourage tribes in every region to review these opportunities,” he said. 

A range of information, including fact sheets, webinars on the application process, and the applications themselves can be found here

The funding will be funneled through three Forest Service grant programs: the Wood Innovations Grant, which invests in proposals that expand the usage of wood in energy and construction; the Community Wood Grant, which awards funding to shovel-ready community wood energy system projects, or wood product facilities; and the Wood Products Infrastructure Assistance Grant, which supports expanding and rehabilitating wood processing facilities to better accommodate ecosystem restoration projects and energy needs. 

The Wood Products Infrastructure Assistance grant applications are due by Dec. 1. The Wood Innovations and Community Wood grant applications are due by Dec. 15. 

“A strong forest products economy contributes to healthier forests, vibrant communities and jobs in rural areas,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are investing in rural economies by growing markets for forest products through sustainable forest management while reducing wildfire risk, fighting climate change, and accelerating economic development.”

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