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 Appalachian Forest Renewal Initiative 2013 Request for Proposals

OVERVIEW

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service – State and Private Forestry, is requesting proposals to restore forests in the Appalachian coal mining region (including KY, MD, OH, PA, TN, VA, and WV). The program is funded with federal funds provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

The AFR initiative is focused on:

  • Restoring forest habitat on small- to medium-sized project areas across the coal mining region of Appalachia.
  • Targeting sites that include a mixture of existing forest, quality streams, and previously mined land, adjacent to biologically rich protected Federal, state, or NGO lands.  
  • Integrating practices that include stream restoration, timber/fuels management, tree planting using a modified version of the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) that is designed for unused surface mined lands, invasive plants management, etc., to accomplish multiple ecological/habitat enhancement objectives. 

PROGRAM FUNDING PRIORITIES

Grants will be awarded to projects that identify a measureable conservation outcome linked to the following activities:

  • Restoring forest habitat on small- to medium-sized project areas across the coal mining region of Appalachia.
  • Targeting sites that include a mixture of existing forest, quality streams, and previously mined land, adjacent to biologically rich protected Federal, state, county /local government, or NGO lands.  
  • Performing work that results in a mixture of new forest establishment, stream restoration, and forest management to improve habitat for bird species and water quality on early successional and mature forest landscapes.
  • Integrating practices that include stream restoration, timber /fuels management, tree planting, and invasive plants management, etc., to accomplish multiple ecological/habitat enhancement objectives
  • Reaching out to non-traditional stakeholders like county governments, planning district commissions, economic development councils, water utilities, the mining community partners (coal and gas companies, forest landowner groups), etc.

FUNDING AVAILABLE

The AFR initiative will award up to seven grants totaling $875,000, with one grant of up to $125,000 being awarded within each of the eligible states.  Projects must supply a 1:1 match.

ELIGIBILITY

Each State Forester in the Appalachian coal mining region (including KY, MD, OH, PA, TN, VA, and WV) may submit one proposal for consideration. The grant applicant may be the state forestry department, or the State Forester’s designee, including other state, local, federal, and tribal agencies (e.g., counties, townships, cities, boroughs), special districts (e.g., conservation districts, planning districts, utility districts), non-profit 501(c)(3)  organizations, schools and universities.

Funds granted under this program may not be used for political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, or to support projects resulting from legally-mandated mitigation projects.


PROGRAM CRITERIA

Requirements for all projects: 

  • Wildlife Biologist Consultation: The project must document that State     Wildlife  agency staff were consulted in the development of the project proposal, and will continue to have a consultation role in project implementation.

  • Partnerships in Project Development/Implementation:  Projects must involve partners in their development and implementation, including working with field foresters from the DOI -Office of Surface Mining and Enforcement (OSM) who have experience in implementing the modified FRA through both traditional and non-traditional partners under the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI).  In addition, the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture (AMJV) and their member organizations have indicated their support and willingness to engage with this initiative.
    In addition, the AFR initiative strives to reach out to non-traditional stakeholders like county governments, planning district commissions, economic development councils, water utilities, the mining community partners (coal and gas companies, forest landowner groups), etc.  
  • Location and Characteristics of Project Sites
    Projects must be located within the AFR Initiative areas identified on the State map (AFRI State Map) and a priority area identified in that State’s Forest Action Plan.
    Project sites must include a mix of:
    • Reclaimed surface mine land where reforestation opportunities exist.  These lands should be prepped for successful reforestation using ARRI methodologies described in the publication “Reforestation Guidelines for Unused Surface Mined Lands in the Eastern United States” (Burger and Zipper, 2011).
    • Existing forest suitable for forest management practices (commercial or non-commercial) to improve either mature forest conditions, early successional forest conditions, or both.  The purpose of this management must tie to the conservation objectives and BMPs described in criterion of Timber Management below.
    • Adjacent to (i.e., within 5 miles or less of) permanently protected forest land (i.e., Federal, State, county/local government, tribal, NGO land)
    • A creek/tributary suitable for fresh water mussel or eastern brook trout, or other high priority water quality related work (e.g., source water protection, stormwater management/flood attenuation, addressing TMDLs, etc.)
    • Sites with retired mineral rights to insure permanency of the project. 
  • Other Federal Landowner Assistance Programs: Applicants are encouraged to seek additional funding for project work from other complementary Federal, State, and NGO assistance programs (e.g., USDA-NRCS, USDA-FSA, DOI-FWS, GFW).  “In-kind” services from non-Federal partners can be used to leverage funding.   Funding from Federal sources cannot be used to fulfill the 1:1 match requirement.

Requirements for specific project activities:

  • Forest Stewardship Plan: Projects must be located only on State and/or private land.  If the project is on private land, the landowner must develop a Forest Stewardship Plan as part of the project that is consistent in its content with the vision and actions promoted by the AFR Initiative.  The AFR initiative can be used to cover the cost of creating or updating a Forest Stewardship Plan, as part of overall project implementation.
  • Tree Planting on Mined Sites must implement ARRI methodologies as described in the publication “Reforestation Guidelines for Unused Surface Mined Lands in the Eastern United States” (Burger and Zipper, 2011).  Only trees and other plant species native to the Appalachian region can be used for planting activities.  Monitoring:  a follow-up survey of tree survival is required at least one year after planting and before the end of the project.
  • American Chestnut: Where blight resistant chestnuts are planted, appropriate methods for establishing this species must be followed.  The American Chestnut Foundation requires all landowners to sign their “Germplasm Agreement” before any advanced backcross American chestnuts can be planted and funding for this initiative encourages the same.
  • Invasive Plant Management:  Eradication and/or suppression of invasive plants on AFR Initiative sites is an allowable and desirable project activity.   If feasible, this work should be coordinated with local Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) groups.
  • Timber Management:
    • Non-commercial Timber Stand Improvement practices (TSI) are eligible for funding.  Commercial timber management activities are encouraged, but the costs and revenues associated with such work are the responsibility of the landowner working with a professional forester and the forest products buyer and logger.
    • BMPs: Timber management work must be designed to improve either mature forest conditions, early successional forest conditions, or both, with the goal of enhancing the purposes of the AFR Initiative.  Such work must comply with State BMPs for conducting timber management, and, as appropriate to the site, BMPs for enhancing specific species habitat such as:
      • Other Species of Concern: In addition to the above, timber management practices to address other species of concern may be considered.   For example, from PA and western MD south, golden-winged warbler BMPS are restricted to elevations >1000’, and that threshold increases as you go south.  If that becomes a problem in selecting high-potential sites, USFS/NWFW will consider project proposals that place less emphasis on elevation and shift the focus to several early successional obligates that also are high priority (e.g. prairie warbler, blue-winged warbler, Kentucky warbler).  The Golden-winged BMPs still can be used as a template for creating quality early successional habitat for lots of species even if not in golden-winged warbler range.
  • Hazardous Fuels Mitigation:  Mechanical fuels treatment and prescribed fire can be conducted if they are designed to improve early successional habitat conditions consistent with Golden-winged warbler habitat BMPs as highlighted in the previous section.
  • Stream Restoration Practices: Due to the variety of State regulatory requirements, cost, and complexity, stream restoration practices should primarily be relatively low cost such as stream bank stabilization through riparian zone tree planting, invasive plant removal, mitigation of sedimentation sources, etc.  Proposals that include in-stream restoration practices (such as addition of limestone fines, placement of large woody debris or boulders in streams, placement of live crib walls, etc.) will be considered if a compelling case is made, and costs are reasonable relative to other required project work on the site on this initiative.

Post-award Requirements:

  • Project Reporting:  Grant recipients will be required to report on project activities and outcomes during and after the project period.  The following list is simply illustrative of the kind of accomplishment reporting that will be needed, depending on the specific actions undertaken in the project.
    • Number of trees planted, species planted, and total acres planted, using ARRI practices
    • Number of linear feet or acres of riparian buffer plantings (count each side of the stream separately)
    • Number of linear feet or acres of other stream restoration practices (count each side of the stream separately)
    • Number of acres of invasive species suppressed/removed/eradicated
    • Acres of Golden-winged warbler habitat restored
    • Acres of Cerulean warbler habitat restored
    • Linear feet of trout habitat restored
    • Commercial timber management – acres
    • Non-commercial timber management –acres
    • Hazardous fuels reduction acres (as reported by States using the standard “NFPORS” form)
    • # of new or revised Stewardship plans & acres
    • # of landowners who received technical assistance
    • # and types of Golden-winged warbler and Cerulean warbler BMPs implemented
    • Fuels reduction (early successional habitat for Golden-winged warble only) – acres, technique used
    • Distance from Federal, state, municipal or other protected forest lands, and ownership of that land; lands with conservation easements
  • USFS Stewardship Mapping and Reporting Tool (SMART): Forest Stewardship plans or AFR projects must be entered into the SMART application upon completion of the project/plan.   NOTE: a number of these measures are standard reporting items for activities tracked by the USFS Forest Stewardship Program (including the SMART program) and Cooperative Fire Program (NFPORS).
  • Carbon sequestration accounting:  Some of the practices performed in an AFR Initiative project, particularly tree planting, will result in gains in carbon sequestration over time.   Following the completion of an individual project, some of the measures identified for reporting of certain practices (see the “Project Reporting Requirements” section) will be used by NFWF and the USFS to calculate this carbon gain.  In addition, NFWF and the USFS will seek to use a standardized method to calculate the entire “carbon life-cycle” for AFRI projects.
  • Monitoring of Outcomes: The AFR Initiative will establish an independent contract(s) to monitor the effectiveness of habitat work performed by projects.

PROPOSAL EVALUATION

Proposals will be reviewed, evaluated, and scored as follows:

  • Environmental Results (25 points) – Extent to which the project addresses the program criteria.
  • Partnership (25 points) – Extent to which an appropriate partnership exists to implement the project and the project is supported by a strong local partnership that will sustain it after the life of the grant.
  • Transferability (25 points) – Extent to which project has potential and a plan to transfer lessons learned to other communities.
  • Work Plan and Budget (25 points) – Extent to which the project is technically sound and feasible, and the proposal sets forth a clear, logical and achievable work plan. Extent to which the budget is cost-effective, reasonable, and leverages other partner contributions.

TIMELINE

The anticipated timeline for this grant round is as follows:

  • November 22, 2013                   Full proposals due
  • February 3, 2014                        Awards announced
  • March 2014                                Grants contracted and funds available
  • February 2016                            Projects conclude and final reports due

HOW TO APPLY

Once applicants have received a letter of endorsement from the State Forester, applicants should log onto the Foundation's website: www.nfwf.org, go to Grant Programs, select the Appalachian Forest Renewal funding opportunity, and use the online process to submit a full proposal. Proposals will be evaluated by a multi-partner AFR proposal evaluation committee according to the priorities and criteria outlined above.  If necessary, the committee will contact applicants directly to discuss the need for any additional information, changes, or questions/clarifications about their proposal.  For more information or questions about the application process, please contact:

John Wright, Program Coordinator, Eastern Partnership Office
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
1133 15th Street, NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 857-0166
John.Wright@nfwf.org