What We Do

 Conservation Partners RFP Spring 2013



Through this Request for Proposals (RFP), Conservation Partners will fund organizations to partner with NRCS field offices to deliver technical assistance for high priority conservation objectives.

Conservation Partners is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) (www.nrcs.usda.gov), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) (www.nfwf.org) and other regional/initiative specific partners. The purpose of the partnership is to provide grants on a competitive basis to:

Added capacity provided via Conservation Partners will be directed toward:

  • Accelerated implementation of NRCS/NFWF initiatives and Farm Bill conservation programs within the Program Priority Areas and Working Lands for Wildlife Focal Areas listed below
  • Incorporation of best available science in applying conservation systems and strategically focusing resources where the greatest conservation opportunities exist
  • Increased landowner awareness and participation in NRCS/NFWF initiatives and Farm Bill programs

Forms of Capacity Sought (include but are not limited to):

  • Expertise in comprehensive natural resource conservation planning
  • Discipline-specific expertise: wildlife, aquatics, wetlands, forestry, general ecology, rangeland ecology
  • Resource-specific scientific expertise to support development of science-based tools, for example:  wildlife habitat evaluation and management guidelines; best management practices to be used in association with NRCS conservation practice implementation (e.g. best management practices for the use of prescribed fire for the management of early successional wildlife habitat)
  • Scientific expertise and experience to help facilitate integration of current scientific knowledge and technologies into NRCS/NFWF conservation initiatives
  • Technical expertise in developing methodologies to monitor, assess, evaluate and report on measurable resource conservation outcomes
  • Farm Bill program and marketing expertise to improve landowners’ and customers’ understanding of Farm Bill programs and NRCS practices, standards and strategic initiatives as a means to increase landowner and partner participation

Grant Size

Typical grant awards will range from $50,000 to $250,000.  Each Program Priority Area is expected to receive between $100,000 and $400,000 in funding.

Proposal Requirements

  • Project proposals must include a letter of commitment from the NRCS State Conservationist(s) representing the state(s) in which the grant activity will take place
  • Projects may be funded for two years of staffing.  Additional months are permissible for start-up time and post-project reporting
  • Grant recipients will be required to identify performance and conservation targets, consistent with NFWF’s and NRCS’s objectives, against which progress will be measured and reported to NFWF.  Among these requirements will be ‘number of full-time equivalent jobs supported’, ‘number of landowners (outreach)’, ‘number of landowners (engaged)’, and ‘number of acres restored or preserved’
  • A match of at least 1:1 non-federal cash or in-kind is required, but larger match ratios are encouraged. 
  • Project work must occur on private land or, in certain cases on public land, where private landowner access for grazing or other agricultural rights have been secured.

Applicant Eligibility

Eligible applicants include: non-profit 501(c) organizations, farmer and commodity-led organizations, educational institutions, tribal governments, and state or local units of governments (e.g. state agricultural and/or conservation agencies, counties, townships, cities, conservation districts, utility districts, drainage districts, etc.).  Individuals, federal government agencies and for-profit entities are not eligible for grants under this program.

Project Duration

Each staff position will be funded up to 2 years; however with start-up and post-grant reporting, projects are anticipated to be fully completed within 2½ years following receipt of a grant agreement. Project start and end dates should define the period during which all proposed work is accomplished, all requested funds are spent, and all matching funds are spent.  A grant may support one part of a larger, longer project with multiple stages; that part of the project supported by the grant must be completed within the specified time frame.

Program Priority Areas (PPAs) and Potential Uses of Funds

A map of PPAs can be accessed by clicking here.  Priority for funding will be directed to proposals that target species and ecosystems of shared interest between NFWF and NRCS, including but not limited to the following:

1.     Landscapes Supporting Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) Targeted Species

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) is a partnership between NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to use agency technical expertise combined with at least $24 million in fiscal year 2013 financial assistance from the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) to combat the decline of seven specific wildlife species whose decline can be reversed and will benefit other species with similar habitat needs.  In fiscal year 2012, NRCS entered into WHIP contracts for over $21 million under WLFW.  Working Lands for Wildlife engages private landowners to enact pro-active conservation measures, moving wildlife agencies from regulation to cooperation.  An overview of WLFW’s priorities can be found here.

  • Bog Turtle
  • Golden-Winged Warbler
  • Gopher Tortoise
  • Lesser Prairie-Chicken
  • New England Cottontail
  • Sage Grouse
  • Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

2.     Northeast Forests

The New York/New England region contains over 52 million acres of forest land, including the largest intact block of temperate broadleaf forest in the Nation. Eighty percent of northeastern forestland is privately owned. The forests are diverse, ranging from the extensive broadleaf deciduous and mixed forests to montane and lowland spruce-fir and low elevation forests of oak, pine, and hickory. They stretch from the Atlantic coast to the highest mountain peaks in the region. The forests also provide habitat for a variety of wildlife such as moose, black bear, lynx, reptiles, other game species, and bird species of special consideration that breed in the northeast, but winter in Central and South America.


  • Improve forest health and productivity
  • Improve water quality primarily through reductions in sediment and phosphorous losses
  • Improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • Enhance long-term economic, recreational, social, and environmental benefits of forest system                                                                 

Activities that will be implemented to meet the objectives include (but are not limited to) forest stand improvement, prescribed burning, tree and shrub plantings and restoration of rare and declining habitats.

Fish and Wildlife Species of Interest:

  • New England cottontail; Bog turtle; Golden-winged warbler; American woodcock

3.     Upper Mississippi River Basin

The Upper Mississippi River is a national treasure, known as a valuable natural, historic, cultural, and economic resource. It is critical to the vitality and abundance of wildlife, birds, aquatic species, people and their communities.  Its basin drains over 189,000 square miles of land in the upper Midwest, including portions of six states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.  Conservation Partners will prioritize projects that will be conducted in NRCS’s priority watershed and subwatersheds as identified for the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and priority areas for the Driftless Area Initiative.  A reference map for MRBI priority areas is included here, though only HUC’s in the states referenced above will be eligible for funding, and the Driftless Area map can be found here.  Chief among Conservation Partners priorities for the basin are improvements to water quality and a focus on riparian habitat.

Grants in the Upper Mississippi River Basin are co-funded by the Walton Family Foundation.


  • Engage farmers, farm-related organizations, and the agricultural sector in best practices, innovation and stewardship practices that benefit fish and wildlife
  • Achieve long-term reductions in edge-of-field nutrient losses from agricultural lands in the key watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin
  • Improve nutrient management and bring new tools to farmers to more efficiently manage inputs
  • Promote wetlands, active floodplains, and other practices that can trap and treat excess nutrient runoff
  • Integrate Farm Bill funding into whole farm planning efforts aimed at producing better water quality

Activities that will be implemented to meet the objectives include (but are not limited to) upland, grassland and wetland wildlife habitat restoration, easement programs and management practices such as provision of conservation cover, cover crop, range seeding, buffering, management of agricultural drainage water, prescribed grazing and forage harvest management.

Fish and Wildlife Species of Interest:

  • Mussels, fish and other aquatic biota
  • Waterfowl, marsh birds, and shorebirds
  • Grassland birds
  • Threatened and endangered prairie, grassland, wetland and aquatic species

Specific Capacity Needs:

  • Development of a monitoring, evaluation and assessment protocol to assess effectiveness of NRCS/NFWF initiatives in achieving stated conservation objectives and outcomes

4.     Pacific Salmon Rivers 

Conservation Partners will focus on the most vulnerable populations of salmonids in Pacific coast watersheds and strengthen those populations that are still robust.  In order to improve water quality and habitat at the scale needed to reach these goals, Conservation Partners will encourage private landowners to sign-up and implement Farm Bill programs on their lands that will have measureable conservation outcomes for salmonids.  Farm Bill technical assistance to help landowners identify potential and implement projects will receive high priority if they include the following:


  • Improve estuarine habitat, including shorelines and critical watersheds
  • Improve forest health and productivity for the benefit of salmon
  • Improve fish passage
  • Improve cold-water flows

Activities that will be implemented to meet these objectives include (but are not limited to) optimizing water use, exercising low-input integrated pest management practices, reducing nutrient runoff, using long-term soil conservation techniques, maintaining healthy riparian and in-stream habitat conditions, and contributing to overall habitat quality and productivity on the farm.

Fish and Wildlife Species of Interest:

  • Coho Salmon; Chinook Salmon; Summer chum; Steelhead

Specific Capacity Needs:

  • Development of a monitoring, evaluation and assessment protocol to assess effectiveness of NRCS/NFWF initiatives in achieving stated conservation objectives and outcomes

5.     Northern Great Plains and Prairie Pothole Regions

This region is covered with rolling hills, prairie grasses, agriculture and thousands of depressional wetlands ranging in size from shallow temporary wetlands to deeper semi-permanent wetlands.  Conservation Partners will help landowners create and fund systems that maintain or improve soil health, keep water clean, reduce flooding, and provide essential wildlife habitat for abundant as well as threatened species.  Land stewardship by tribes, ranchers and public agencies has ensured that there are still significant large intact native grasslands remaining in the Northern Great Plains and Prairie Pothole Regions. The relatively intact nature of these regions provides an opportunity to manage working landscapes so that farmers and ranchers can realize economic benefits from wildlife stewardship activities.  Conservation Partners seeks to help interested partners integrate ranching practices, soil health, water quality and prairie/grassland/wetland restoration across the landscape ensuring that keystone species and ecological processes thrive and private landowners reap economic benefits from managing for wildlife.


  • Deliver conservation outcomes and benefits from ecological stewardship through private landowner cooperation
  • Restore, enhance and protect wetlands, wetland function and associated upland grassland habitats on working lands
  • Identify and direct incentive programs toward priority landscapes that will support species of conservation interest
  • Maximize financial incentives for ecosystem-scale grassland conservation and restoration

Activities that will be implemented to meet the objectives include (but are not limited to) fencing removal and modification, native grassland enhancement and restoration, grazing management systems, cover crops, range seeding, forage harvest management, prescribed grazing, conservation easements, signing up landowners for wildlife incentive programs, designing sustainable landscape plans and monitoring programs, monitoring wildlife response to restoration activities, conservation tillage practices, abating conifer encroachment,  and systems that support sustainable ranching. 

Fish and Wildlife Species of Interest:

  • Pronghorn; black-tailed prairie dog; black-footed ferret; swift fox; sage grouse; waterfowl; marsh birds; shorebirds; Sprague’s pipit and other grassland birds, threatened and endangered species.

Specific Capacity Needs:

  • Development of a monitoring, evaluation and assessment protocol to assess effectiveness of NRCS / NFWF initiatives in achieving stated conservation objectives and outcomes

6.      Additional Conservation Partners Awards

(Offered through another RFP at a different time)

Conservation Partners funding is supplementing some pre-existing grant programs in which NFWF and NRCS have joint conservation priorities and technical assistance has been identified as a useful tool.  Although funding for these additional PPAs is not available through this RFP, prospective applicants should begin considering whether their organization can help implement NRCS’s and NFWF’s technical assistance objectives in the following areas: 

Criteria for Competitive Proposals

Proposals will be more competitive if they include:

  1. Specific Conservation Activities and Metrics.  During the online application in EasyGrants, applicants will be requested to supply Activity and Outcome metrics for their proposals.  These metrics typically relate to species outcomes, acres restored or preserved, jobs created, outreach to landowners, number of landowners engaged, and other potential measurements.  A list of additional metrics will be provided via drop-down menu during the application.  Applicants can also select “other” to provide a metric that is unique to their project.
  2. A thorough explanation of how the proposal relates to Conservation Partners’ program preferences for:
    • Activities that help conserve the species, habitats and ecosystems in the Program Priority Areas listed above
    • Measurable conservation outcomes linked to project activities (e.g., target bird population increases by X%)
    • Activities that advance the priorities of the NRCS and/or of established regional, state and federal conservation plans
    • Restoration/protection of habitats/species in, or adjacent to, existing protected areas
    • Provisions for ongoing management, maintenance and protection, as appropriate
    • Documentation of knowledge and experience with the NRCS planning process
    • Organizations with a proven capability in working successfully with private landowners
    • Matching contributions greater than the minimum of 1:1
    • Match that can be directly applied to technical assistance delivery

Matching Contributions

All grant recipients are required to provide a minimum 1:1 match of cash, contributed goods and services, or a mixture of both from non-Federal sources.  The ratio of matching funds offered by the applicant is one factor considered during the competitive review process.

Matching funds may include cash, in-kind contributions of staff and volunteer time, work performed, materials and services donated, or other tangible contributions to the project objectives and outcomes.  To be eligible, matching contributions must be:

  • Dedicated specifically for the project
  • Spent between the project start and end dates designated in the grant application
  • Voluntary in nature (mitigation, restitution, or other permit or court-ordered settlements are ineligible)
  • Applied only to the Conservation Partners grant and not to any other matching programs

Ineligible Uses of Funds

  • Funds granted under this program may not be used to support political advocacy, lobbying or litigation
  • Grant recipients may not use grant funds to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements (e.g. permit conditions, mitigation, settlement agreements) of any local, state or federal permit. Grant funds may be used, however, to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts
  • Grant recipients may only use grant funds for indirect costs if they meet the following conditions:
    • the recipient organization has a federally-approved indirect rate; and,

    • indirect costs do not exceed 15% of the total grant request (even when the federally-approved rate is greater than 15%)

Deadlines and Application Procedures

  • A webinar to review the grant process, program goals and answer questions will be held on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm, EST and will be available on the Conservation Partners website throughout the RFP cycle. 
  • Pre-proposals are due on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 
  • Full proposals are due on Friday,  June 21, 2013
  • Awards will be announced in late August 2013

At the pre-proposal stage, the only file that an applicant must upload into Easygrants is a two-page Pre-proposal Narrative. An applicant invited to submit a full proposal will be required to upload several additional files described in the following table:


Required or Optional


Full proposal narrative


Template provided in Easygrants; completed narrative not to exceed 6 pages in length

Board of Trustees


Provide a list of members of Board of Trustees, Directors or equivalent.  If your organization does not have a Board, upload a document stating so.

A-133 Audit


If your organization has not expended more than $500,000 in Federal funds in the past year, upload a statement stating that an A-133 Audit is not required.

GAAP audited financial statements 


If your organization does not have GAAP audited financial statements, you may upload a balance sheet and profit/loss statement instead.

IRS Form 990


If your organization is not a non-profit organization, upload a document stating that a 990 Form is not required.

Statement of Litigation


Template provided in Easygrants

Map of project location


Map should show the project location with respect to major landmarks (e.g., cities, rivers).  A Google map is sufficient.

Letters of Support


Include letter(s) of commitment from the NRCS State Conservationist(s) representing the state(s) in which the grant activity will take place.

Other relevant documents, figures and photos




All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.  Hard-copy applications will not be considered for funding.

To start an application, please click on the following link: http://www.nfwf.org/easygrants.  New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting their application.  Applications may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission, up until the application deadline.  It is imperative for Easygrants users to disable their browser’s pop-up blocker prior to beginning the application process.

The following link contains access to other useful information for applicants, including videos that demonstrate the Easygrants online system: http://www.nfwf.org/Pages/grants/applicants.aspx.

Prospective applicants may contact ConservationPartners@nfwf.org (612-564-7296) before submitting a proposal.

Related Files

Back to Program Home

NFWF Guidance for Online Applications

List of NRCS State Conservationists

View the Conservation Partners Map (Adobe PDF File)

NRCS Core Conservation Practices


 Related Documents