Editor’s note: We know our readers are interested in funding opportunities like the Community Wildfire Defense Grants. Since Round 1 of the program, new application guidance and procedures have been developed. Please refer to official USFS guidance if you are pursuing an application in Round 2 (open now – Oct 31, 2023). This is an update to the CWDG Round 1 primer that we put out in August 2022. All information in this post has been summarized from publicly-available information on the CWDG program website and applicant webinars for the purposes of helping push out this information widely.
Post last updated: 8/28/2023
The USDA Forest Service is now accepting applications for the second round of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program. This program is intended to help communities plan for and reduce their risk of wildfire.
Per the Forest Service, “This program, which was authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, prioritizes at-risk communities in an area identified as having high or very high wildfire hazard potential, are low-income, or have been impacted by a severe disaster that affects the risk of wildfire” and helps “communities in the wildland urban interface (WUI) implement the three goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.”
If you are unfamiliar with this program, the goal is to provide funding for communities to 1) develop and revise Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs), or 2) implement projects described in a Community Wildfire Protection Plan that is less than ten years old.
Changes in Application and Review from Round 1:
If you applied to, or considered applying for round one funding, there are a few changes to round two to be aware of:
#1 – All applicants will now use the same application portal. There are four different notices of funding opportunity (NOFOs) on grants.gov which you will need to review, however, they will all direct applicants to use the same application portal. You will need to request a unique link from your program contact in order to apply.
#2 – Applicants for Round 2 will be able to use community-level data for low-income criteria, versus county-level (the finest scale available in the previous round) to address the feedback and concern about the inability to analyze income status at a finer scale. Data is available for county, Tribe, and community income on this easy-to-use web tool that provides CWDG eligibility and scoring data for all U.S. communities, counties, and Tribal areas. According to CWDG program staff, “low-income scoring will also now be based upon having a median household income of less than 80% in comparison to the state, as well as national, median incomes, versus only state level incomes used during Round 1 (mitigating bias against states with a lower overall income).”
#3 – The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) will now be used to determine “underserved communities” for the purpose of match waiver eligibility instead of the Social Vulnerability Index. This change complies with Executive Order #13985. Communities that meet the low-income definition are also considered underserved and therefore eligible for a match waiver.
#4 – The round 2 application will be open for 90 days (instead of 60 days). The current application period closes on Oct 31, 2023 at 11:59pm eastern time.
#5 – There are two separate scoring rubrics; one for evaluating CWPP development or revision, and the other for project implementation.
#6 – In round 2, a certain amount of funding will be prioritized for applications requesting funds for the creation or revision of CWPPS. The amount of funding prioritized for CWPP development or revision has not yet been finalized, but applications will need to meet a minimum score. This change is in direct response to feedback from applicants about wanting to ensure that program dollars are helping to support communities who do not yet have a CWPP so that they can be eligible for funding in later rounds of CWDG for implementation funds.
How to learn more and get support:
The CWDG Program Staff offered potential applicant informational webinars for those who were interested in learning more about the grant program and the process for submitting an application. To view a recording of a webinar, please click the link on any one of the webinars listed below or visiting the the CWDG website.
- August 4, webinar recording is now available, (2:03:36)
- August 9, webinar recording is now available, (2:02:45)
- August 10, webinar recording is now available, (1:38:34)
- August 15, webinar recording is now available, (2:02:29)
Additionally, CWDG program staff are now offering bi-weekly office hours on Zoom to help answer general questions. Sign up below:
References and Resources:
- Pre-award guide for applicants: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/2022-08/Pre-Award-Guide.pdf
- Frequently asked questions: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cwdg-2023-faqs.pdf
- CWDG State and Program Contacts: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cwdg-nofo-contacts-round2.pdf
- CWDG Dashboard Tool: https://wildfirerisk.org/cwdg-tool
- Examples of high and low scoring applications from Round 1: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cwdg-round1-high-low-score-application-response-examples.pdf
- Round 1 Funded Projects: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/fire/grants/funded-proposals
- CWDG Fact Sheet: https://www.fs.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fs_media/fs_document/CWDG-Factsheet.pdf
**Reminder: PLEASE REVIEW OFFICIAL GUIDANCE ON THE CWDG PROGRAM BEFORE APPLYING**