Acres for America 2017 Request for Pre-proposals

Applicant Webinar: Tuesday, March 21st 2017 at 1:00-2:00 PM Eastern Time [Register Here]
Pre-Proposal Due Date: Thursday, April 13th 2017  by 11:59 PM Eastern Time
Invite-Only Full Proposal Due Date: Thursday, June 29th 2017  by 11:59 PM Eastern Time

OVERVIEW

Acres for America is the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's premier land conservation program, and was established to provide urgently needed funding for projects that conserve important large-scale habitats for fish, wildlife, and plants through land acquisitions and perpetual conservation easements.

In 2005, Acres for America was launched as a partnership between Walmart Stores (www.walmart.com) and NFWF. As a founding partner, Walmart's goal was to offset the footprint of its domestic facilities on at least an acre by acre basis – a number then estimated at 100,000 acres – through permanent conservation of important wildlife habitats. The program has now helped to permanently protect over 1.2 million acres valued at $500 million, and connect more than 10 million acres of public and private lands across the country. 

This Request for Proposals will collect pre-proposals from around the nation; from which NFWF will select a small number of applicants to submit a more detailed full proposal. Prior to submitting a pre-proposal, applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the approporiate NFWF regional office (listed in the Applicant Assistance section of this RFP). The purpose is to give the applicant an opportunity to share project concepts and ideas prior to fully preparing and submitting a pre-proposal.

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

Acres for America is a nation-wide program. Since its inception, 72 projects have been funded in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
acres map 2005-2016.png 

PROGRAM PRIORITIES

Preferential consideration will be given to proposals that can demonstrate their ability to achieve more than one of the program priorities below.
  • Conserve critical habitats for birds, fish, plants and wildlife
  • Connect existing protected lands to unify wild places and protect critical migration routes
  • Provide access for people to enjoy the outdoors
  • Ensure the future of local economies that depend on forestry, ranching and recreation
To be considered for funding through the Acres for America program, land acquisitions and conservation easements should meet the following criteria:
 
Conservation Criteria:
  • Project Scale and Program Priorities. Projects should protect or contribute to the protection of significant acres of land, address one or more of the program priorities, and meet the other criteria below. Acres for America projects have ranged in size from several hundred acres to well over 100,000 acres, with an average size of more than 16,000 acres. The common characteristics of all Acres projects is that they are of a size that is significant for the landscape in which they are located, and/or they have exceptional strategic importance for conservation in the region.
  • National or State Conservation Priority. Endorsement by appropriate federal, state, and local government agencies that the acquisition is of high conservation value is a primary consideration. Please make note if the project is part of published conservation plans (such as North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Partners in Flight, State Wildlife Action Plans, or Endangered Species Act Recovery Plans). Natural Heritage rankings for key species present on the site are an important consideration when available. Endorsement by non-profit conservation organizations that the acquisition is of high conservation value using same criteria as above is also a primary consideration. Letters of support from agencies and organizations should be available for review at the full proposal stage.
  • Protect Critical Fish and Wildlife Species. Important fish, wildlife, and/or plant resources, such as endangered species or areas of significant biological diversity, as identified by credible conservation agencies or organizations, should be conserved through the acquisition. Quantification of resources is important (e.g. 10% of the state's bald eagles nest at the site vs. bald eagles nest at the site.)
  • Expand Wildlife Connectivity. Acquisitions that reduce fragmentation of key habitats, expand and enhance wildlife corridors and contribute to larger landscape-scale conservation efforts are preferred over isolated acquisitions.
  • Expand Public Access to Nature. Projects that provide public access for people to enjoy and experience the outdoors, recreate and connect with nature are preferred.  It must be clearly stated in the grant application what the uses are, or will be allowed or not allowed (e.g. hunting, nature observation, ATV use, camping, etc.). State the number of additional acres of land or miles of river will be opened to public access. It also should be indicated whether by acquiring this land public access will be improved to neighboring parcels. NFWF understands that conservation easement projects may have difficulty satisfying this criterion.
  • Benefit Local Economies. Projects that can demonstrate the connection between the land acquisition and related benefits to local economies are preferred. For example, projects could help expand tourism or recreational economies, or contribute to community forestry. Applicants are encouraged to estimate the economic benefits that are expected as a result of the project (i.e., number of jobs sustained or created).
  • Provide a Range of Ecological Services. Please indicate if the project can demonstrate or even quantify the ecological services provided or protected through land protection (i.e., securing drinking water sources, or protecting stream flow for aquatic resources, carbon sequestration).
Additional Criteria:
  • Shapefile. Applicants are required to provide detailed digital Shapefiles in Easygrants delineating the land proposed for conservation in the context of adjacent protected lands.
  • Acquisition Disposition. Final disposition of land, including long-term ownership and management plans, must be clearly stated. If the federal government is to receive land, additional review by NFWF may be necessary.
  • Easement Restrictions. Explain in detail the restrictions to be included in the conservation easement, and how these will protect the conservation values of the property.

PROJECT METRICS

To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure greater consistency of project data provided by multiple grants, the Acres for America program has a list of metrics in Easygrants for grantees to choose from for reporting. We ask that applicants select only the most relevant metrics from this list for their project (all possible program metrics are shown in the table below). This feature will only show up in Easygrants during the full proposal round; however, it is encouraged that pre-proposal narratives make reference to these metrics as well. 
 
Project Activity ​Recommended Metric Additional Guidance
​Conservation Easements ​Acres protected under easement ​Enter the total number of acres protected under long-term easement (permanent or >30 yrs).  Please also indicate the acres of wetland, timberlands, grazing lands protected within the easement in the NOTES.
​Acres connected ​Enter the total number of conservation acres permanently connected as a result of this easement (include your proposed easement in this total).
​Miles under long-term easement ​Enter the number of stream/riverine/riparian miles protected within your proposed property area or as a result of the easement.
​Land Acquisitions ​Acres acquired in fee  ​Enter the total number of acres acquired in fee title.  Please also indicate the acres of wetland, timberlands, grazing lands protected within the acquisition in the NOTES.
​Acres connected  ​Enter the total number of conservation acres permanently connected as a result of this acquisition (include your proposed land acquisition in this total).
​Miles acquired ​Enter the total number of conservation acres permanently connected as a result of this acquisition (include your proposed land acquisition in this total).
​Economic Benefit ​ ​Number of jobs created ​Enter the number of jobs created as a result of the acquisition/easement.
​Number of jobs sustained ​Enter the number of jobs sustained as a result of the acquisition/easement.
​Public Access ​ ​Number of acres with public access ​Enter the number of acres that have been opened to public access as a result of this project.
​Number of miles with public access ​Enter the number of miles that have been opened to public access as a result of this project.
 

ELIGIBILITY

Eligible and Ineligible Entities
  • Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes, and educational institutions.
  • Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, private businesses, individuals, international organizations.

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds

  • NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
  • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts.
Land Acquisition and Conservation Easement Eligibility
  • All acquisition documents, including appraisals, title reports, environmental hazard assessments, mineral rights assessments, surveys, and where appropriate, a local attorney's opinion of easement viability, as well as other appropriate documents, must be available for NFWF staff review as part of the application process. For more specific information regarding funding an acquisition of interest in real property, see NFWF’s Applicant’s FAQ webpage
  • The fee transfer or perpetual easement must qualify for "conservation purposes" as defined by Internal Revenue Code Section 170(h), which generally includes the following: the preservation of land areas for outdoor recreation by, or the education of, the general public; the protection of relatively natural habitats of fish, wildlife, or plants, or similar ecosystems; the preservation of open space - including farmland and forest land - for scenic enjoyment or pursuant to an adopted governmental conservation policy; in either case, such open space preservation must yield a significant public benefit; the preservation of historically important land areas or buildings.
  • Debt retirement on acquisition projects is not preferred.
  • Applicants should be able to secure letters of support from appropriate Congressional representatives for acquisition of interest in a real property if requested by NFWF.

FUNDING AVAILABILITY & MATCH

Approximately $3.5 million will be available to support projects in 2017. Based on prior year decisions, we anticipate that between four and eight projects will be awarded funds. All grant awards require a minimum 1:1 match of cash or contributed goods and services. Federal funds may be considered as match. Due to the competitive nature of this program, successful Acres for America projects typically have matching funds at a 5:1 ratio or greater.

EVALUATION CRITERIA

All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Proposals will then be evaluated based on the extent to which they meet the following criteria. 
Program Goals and Priorities – Project contributes to the Program’s overall habitat and species conservation goals, and has specific, quantifiable performance metrics to evaluate project success. Project addresses one or more of the program priorities.
Technical Merit – Project is technically sound and feasible, and the proposal sets forth a clear, logical and achievable work plan and timeline.
Transferability – Project has potential and plan to transfer lessons learned to other communities and/or to be integrated into government programs and policies.
Funding Need – Project establishes a clear need for the funds being requested, and demonstrates that activities would not move forward absent funding.
Ensure Long-Term Stewardship – Projects that have a specific plan to transfer management to a resource agency or manage the lands in such a way to maximize ecosystem benefits and provide access to the public are preferred.
Conservation Plan and Context – The project advances an existing conservation plan or strategy.
Past Success – Applicant has a proven track record of success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.
Partnership – An appropriate organization or coalition exists to implement the project and the project is supported by a strong local partnership that leverages additional funds and will sustain it after the life of the grant. Identify proposed partners, if known, the roles they will play in implementing the project, and how this project will build new or enhance existing partnerships.  (Note: a project partner is any local community, non-profit organization, tribe, and/or local, state, and federal government agency that contributes to the project in a substantial way and is closely involved in the completion of the project.)

OTHER

Budget – Costs are allowable, reasonable and budgeted in accordance with NFWF’s Budget Instructions cost categories.  Federally-funded projects must be in compliance with OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable (OMB Uniform Guidance).  IMPORTANT:  Grant funds from the Acres for America program can only be applied to the property’s purchase price. Please enter the number of acres and cost per acre in the “Other Direct Costs” category of your budget.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not necessarily constitute NFWF’s express written authorization for the applicant to procure such specific services noncompetitively.  When procuring goods and services, NFWF recipients must follow documented procurement procedures which reflect applicable laws and regulations. 

Publicity and Acknowledgement of Support – Award recipients will be required to grant NFWF the right and authority to publicize the project and NFWF’s financial support for the grant in press releases, publications and other public communications.  Recipients may also be asked by NFWF to provide high-resolution (minimum 300 dpi) photographs depicting the project.

Receiving Award Funds – Award payments are primarily reimbursable.  Projects may request funds for reimbursement at any time after completing a signed agreement with NFWF.  A request of an advance of funds must be due to an imminent need of expenditure and must detail how the funds will be used and provide justification and a timeline for expected disbursement of these funds.

Compliance Requirements – Projects selected may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act (state and federal), and National Historic Preservation Act.  As may be applicable, successful applicants may be required to comply with additional Federal, state or local requirements and obtain all necessary permits and clearances.

Mitigation Funds – Applicants that use mitigation funds as match must clearly state in the proposal how the mitigation funds will be utilized in overall project funding strategy.

Insurance – Award recipients will be required to obtain and maintain, at a minimum, equivalent insurance coverage for Real Property as provided to property owned by such recipient.

TIMELINE

Dates of activities are subject to change. Please check the Acres for America Program page of the NFWF website for the most current dates and information.
 
​Applicant Webinar [Register Here] March 21, 2017 at 1:00-2:00 PM EDT​
​Pre-Proposal Due Date ​April 13, 2017 by 11:59 PM EDT
​Invitations for Full Proposals Sent ​May 16, 2017
​Full Proposal Due Date     ​June 29, 2017 by 11:59 PM EDT
​Board of Directors Approval ​November 8, 2017

HOW TO APPLY

All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system. 
  1. Go to easygrants.nfwf.org to register in our Easygrants online system.  New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting the application (if you already are a registered user, use your existing login).  Enter your applicant information.
  2. Once on your homepage, click the “Apply for Funding” button and select this RFP’s “Funding Opportunity” from the list of options.
  3. Follow the instructions in Easygrants to complete your application.  Once as application has been started, it may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission.

APPLICATION ASSISTANCE

A PDF Version of the Request for Pre-Proposals can be downloaded here.
A Tip Sheet is available for quick reference while you are working through your application. This document can be downloaded here.

Additional information to support the application process can be accessed on the NFWF website’s “Applicant Information” page.

Before submitting a proposal , applications are encouraged to discuss project ideas with NFWF’s regional office staff. They will be able to provide additional guidance on National Fish and Wildlife Foundation conservation priorities in the project area.

For general information or questions about this RFP, please contact:

Kimberly Shriner at 202-595-2639 or kimberly.shriner@nfwf.org

For issues or assistance with our online Easygrants system, please contact:

Easygrants Helpdesk
Email:  Easygrants@nfwf.org
Voicemail:  202-595-2497
Hours:  9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET, Monday-Friday.
Include:  your name,  proposal ID #,  e-mail address,  phone number,  program you are applying to,  and a description of the issue.

 
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