Current Projects

Community Forest Program Tribal Outreach

With funding from the USDA Forest Service and matching support from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, First Nations’ Community Forest Program Tribal Outreach project provides support and resources to tribal entities in the Northern Great Plains and Southwest regions that are seeking to acquire or establish community forests.

Through this project, First Nations is hosting informational webinars and developing resources to help tribal entities interested in applying for funding through the USDA Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP).

Through this program, the USDA Forest Service will fund up to 50% of allowable project costs (including the reviewed and approved yellow book appraised land value) for tribes. 50% of project costs must be covered by nonfederal matching funding.

Why apply?

Through forest acquisition, Native communities can:

  • Increase land base for cultural purposes
  • Protect sensitive cultural sites and areas through public exclusion zones
  • Increase access for harvesting traditional foods, which strengthens tribal food sovereignty
  • Generate products from harvestable resources, such as art and value-added foods
  • Provide educational opportunities and demonstrations for youth
  • Improve economy from tourism, including agritourism, cultural tours, educational offerings, and public lodging areas
  • Create outdoor recreation

Applicant eligibility

The CFP funding opportunity is open to federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native corporations, qualified nonprofit organizations focused on conservation, and local governments.  The proposed land must be:

  • Forest land – This land must be at least 5 acres, suitable for sustaining natural vegetation, and at least 75% forested (defined by presence of trees and absence of non-forest uses)
  • Private forest land – This includes land that is threatened by conversion to non-forest uses, is not held in trust by the U.S., and can provide community benefits and public access
  • Full fee purchase land (also known as fee simple or fee acquisition land) – This is land that the purchaser must acquire all rights, title and interest to from a seller or owner

Get technical assistance from First Nations

To provide support in applying for this program during the 2021/2022 funding year, First Nations is offering technical assistance to tribes and Native-led conservation organizations. This technical assistance may include application guidance and review and help in identifying matching funding. Interested groups are encouraged to connect with First Nations and explore this important opportunity to increase their tribal assets. Email Emilie Ellis, Senior Program Officer, at, for more information.

This webinar series is designed to help tribal entities interested in applying for funding through the USDA Forest Service’s annual Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (Community Forest Program) grant opportunity.

Webinar descriptions are detailed below, and registration information and presentation materials are here.

Webinar 1: Community Forest Program Opportunities for Tribes and Native-led Conservation Organizations

Tribes and Native-led 501(c)3 conservation organizations are eligible to apply for funding through the USDA to establish a community forest. The funding can cover up to 50% of costs to purchase forested lands in fee simple acquisitions for community benefit. In this one-hour webinar and Q&A session, participants learn how the USDA Community Forest Program works and how to write and submit an application. Topics include:

  • Program background and purpose
  • Eligibility
  • Application process
  • Example projects
  • Technical assistance opportunities

Webinar 2: Returning Forests to Tribal Stewardship

In this webinar, representatives of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians discuss their efforts to reacquire ancestral lands to protect tribal values and cultural resources, promote forest resilience, and provide opportunities for public education and recreation. Speakers share how they leveraged resources and partnerships to advance the following goals:

  • Restore healthy forests that are more resilient to disturbances and climate changes
  • Increase access to culturally important plants used for basketry, medicine, and food
  • Create opportunities to educate the public about tribal stewardship and traditional knowledge and uses
  • Ensure protection of traditional cultural properties and practices
  • Explore opportunities to generate revenue to support management through sustainable forest harvest and recreational uses

The webinar concludes with an introduction to the US Forest Service Community Forest Program to highlight one of the funding resources leveraged for the tribal projects.

Speakers include

Mike LaVoie, Natural Resources Manager, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Tommy Cabe, Forest Resource Specialist, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Mike Lithgow, Information and Outreach Coordinator, Kalispel Tribe of Indians
Mary Adelzadeh, Consultant, First Nations Development Institute
Candice Polisky, Community Forest Program Coordinator, Western States USDA Forest Service
Jill Gottesman, Regional Conservation Specialist, The Wilderness Society


Access registration information, recordings and presentations here.