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Grants can help Iowa cities replant trees lost in the 2020 derecho

It has been nearly four years since a violent derecho swept through Iowa, causing approximately $11 billion in damage, and the reconstruction of our landscapes is still far from complete.

The storm’s winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour destroyed millions of trees. A grant program is providing funds to help communities rebuild and replant.

Ellie Jones is the Iowa DNR’s Community Disaster Relief Coordinator and works with Trees Forever.

“We’ve lost many more trees than we can replace in a few years,” Jones says. “We’ve lost over seven million trees in urban and non-urban areas. This grant program has been running since the year after the derecho, but unfortunately, given the amount of funding we have and the enormous amount of reconstruction work that needs to be done, it will probably – hopefully – continue for the next decade.”

The Community Forestry Grant Program offers grants ranging from $500 to $10,000 to purchase and plant trees suitable for Iowa.

“This is a grant for public landowners,” Jones says. “Unfortunately, we cannot work with private landowners, especially with this grant, but if you are a public entity or working on behalf of a city, you can apply. You must live in one of the 27 counties where the governor has declared a state of emergency.”

She says that, unlike previous grants, this project does not require municipalities to provide any of their own funds.

Cedar Rapids was one of the worst-hit communities, losing more than half of its tree canopy to the derecho winds on August 10, 2020. Jones says trees help clean our waterways, and they filter carbon and other harmful pollutants from the air. Trees also help offset what’s known as the urban heat island effect.

“Cities tend to be much hotter because of the lack of green space. Because we have these very high temperatures in our cities,” Jones says, “people are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses and things like that. If we lose a lot of these trees in our urban areas, we’re making that problem worse and not reaping the benefits that these trees provide us.”

The application deadline is August 26. To apply, visit

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