Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund RFP 2014

Proposal Due Date: 11:59pm (CST), February 27, 2014

OVERVIEW

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) invites your submission of proposals within the Cumberland Plateau that will help accelerate the restoration and enhancement of critical forest and freshwater habitats and associated wildlife species in the region. Major funding is provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), with private funding from International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Initiative and Alcoa Foundation.

Grant awards will range from $50,000 to $250,000, depending on the overall scale of the project.  Awards are anticipated to be announced in July 2014.

Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Jon Scott at jonathan.scott@nfwf.org or Suzanne Sessine at suzanne.sessine@nfwf.org to discuss project ideas.

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

Projects within the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky, central Tennessee and northern Alabama and Georgia are eligible, with preference given to projects located within the identified focal areas (View Map). Focal areas are categorized by priority habitat, including freshwater, terrestrial, or where both have significant overlap. Projects within these focal areas should reflect strategies that address the priority habitat type(s). State, local, and private lands are eligible across all states. Work on federal lands is eligible, but must be part of projects where state, local, and/or private lands are also included.

CONSERVATION GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund supports restoration, enhancement and protection of ecologically important forestland and freshwater habitats to strengthen populations of important fish and wildlife and improve water quality. The Fund has a particular interest in accelerating shortleaf pine ecosystem restoration (including shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak forests) and restoring freshwater habitat, to support the following 5-year objectives:

  • Restore 3,500 acres of shortleaf pine and other native upland woodland/savanna forest species.

  • Protect/enhance 50,000 acres of vulnerable shortleaf pine and other upland woodland/savanna forest habitat.

  • Restore/Enhance 2,000 acres of riparian forest for wildlife habitat and water quality.

  • Increase populations of northern bobwhite quail and prairie warbler, as well as fish, amphibians and other aquatic species, which are keystone or umbrella species representing healthy, sustainable woodland/savanna forests and freshwater systems.

  • Engage more than 3,000 private landowners in shortleaf pine and riparian forest outreach, training and technical assistance activities that contribute to the restoration, enhancement and wildlife objectives described above, and support working forests by demonstrating their environmental and socioeconomic benefits.

All proposals must specifically address how projects for which funds are requested will directly and measurably contribute to the accomplishment of these goals.

PRIORITY FUNDING STRATEGIES

The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund seeks projects implementing the following strategies:

  1. Restoring Native Upland Woodland/Savanna Forests: Restoring native upland woodland/savanna forest systems, particularly shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak forest through reforestation actions that benefit water quality and species is a major objective of the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund. 

    Priority will be given to projects that:

    • Restore native upland woodland/ savanna forests in areas adjacent to or in close proximity to existing native upland woodland/savanna forests receiving appropriate management treatment at regular intervals, or on existing protected lands likely to receive long-term management.

    Include all necessary site prep and plans for management (i.e., mechanical treatments, prescribed burning) at appropriate intervals to promote long-term sustainability.

  2. Enhancing and Maintaining Native Upland Woodland/Savanna Forest Ecosystems: Maintaining existing native upland woodland/savanna forest systems, with emphasis on shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak savanna ecosystems, using a variety of methods including prescribed burning at an appropriate frequency to enhance wildlife habitat and improve water quality

    • Prescribed Fire: Maintaining, expanding, and promoting the appropriate frequency (2- 3 years) of prescribed fire across the shortleaf landscape. The Fund may support the following prescribed fire strategies:

      • Prescribed fire teams or other like strategies that increase prescribed fire capacity and promote coordination and collaboration across organizations and agencies to grow the number of acres under prescribed fire on an annual basis;

      • Prescribed fire training to increase prescribed burning on private lands;

      • Providing technical assistance and additional landowner incentives to increase the number of prescribed fire acres and the frequency of prescribed fire on private lands;

      • Identifying and addressing specific barriers or roadblocks (i.e., insurance, liability, community issues, etc.) to fire introduction that may exist in a specific geography.

    • Additional Management Treatments:  Where prescribed burning alone is not sufficient, improving and maintaining existing upland woodland/savanna ecosystems through thinning, invasive species control, and mechanical treatments, where appropriate.

  3. Restoring and Enhancing Riparian Forests and Watersheds: Restoring riparian forests through reforestation and implementation of best management practices to improve watershed health and enhance freshwater habitat. The following strategies are priorities:

    • Restore riparian forests and reduce sedimentation of streams using a variety of methods including, but not limited to, planting of native species, installation of fencing and alternative watering systems to exclude livestock from streams and control of invasive plants.

  4. Expanding and Coordinating Technical Assistance and Outreach: Projects implementing targeted outreach and assistance to increase private landowners engaged in upland woodland/savanna and riparian forest stewardship practices will be considered. Proposals must project the amount of acres and/or miles to be restored or enhanced as a result of proposed technical assistance and outreach activities. Preference will be given to projects that increase coordination across agencies and organizations and improve delivery of landowner technical assistance for upland woodland/savanna and riparian forest recovery efforts, as well as target outreach to private lands adjacent to or in close proximity to established upland woodland/savanna forest stands and riparian forests receiving appropriate management treatments at regular intervals. Priority strategies include:

    • Increasing “boots on-the-ground”: Support additional landowner technical assistance providers, including, but not limited to registered foresters experienced with shortleaf pine and woodland/savanna forest restoration, to expand on-the-ground restoration and protection activities on private lands, with a focus on existing and historical forestry growers. Applications should describe existing technical assistance capacity within the geographic area of focus and communicate how additional capacity will be coordinated with NRCS and other existing providers and targeted to achieve conservation outcomes. Furthermore, applications should demonstrate how new “boots on-the-ground” efforts will be aligned with and expand existing technical assistance tools, including workshops, technical field visits, educational and outreach materials, and access to cost-share programs, third-party forest certification and other market-based initiatives.

    • Advancing new market-based incentive programs: Support will be provided for innovative, market-based solutions and incentive programs that: stimulate landowner participation in upland woodland/savanna forest recovery and/or riparian forest restoration efforts; expand contract periods to promote the sustainability of upland woodland/savanna and/or riparian forest restoration activities; and/or, enhance the restoration and maintenance activities on the land to promote the achievement of upland woodland/savanna and/or riparian forest ideal habitat conditions. Strategies may include coupling new incentive payments funded through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund with existing cost-share programs; providing smaller incentives in cases where cost-share programs are oversubscribed and landowners are willing to accept smaller payments; or other measures. 

    *Note: Land acquisition is not a priority of the program. However, in rare cases land acquisition requests will be considered when the land is a significant priority target for upland woodland/savanna and/or riparian forest restoration efforts and where grant funds can be substantially leveraged with other public and private resources.

CRITERIA FOR COMPETITIVE APPLICATIONS

Applications will be reviewed and evaluated based on the extent to which they meet the following criteria:

  • Conservation Outcomes: Demonstrate how project activities contribute to the overall Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund forest health, water and species goals. Those that make the strongest and most deliberate link will be more competitive. All applications must include specific quantitative performance metrics that will be tracked and measured to evaluate the success of the project.

  • Timing of Implementation: Ability to begin implementation this year and achieve significant outcomes within 1-2 years, with opportunities for longer-term outcomes that can be facilitated through near-term investment.

  • Funding Need:  Establish a clear need for the funds being requested, and demonstrate that activities would not move forward absent funding from the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund.

  • Landscape Context: Describe how proposed activities will expand on new or existing restoration and conservation initiatives to maximize large-scale ecosystem function; such as expansion of an anchor area and connection of remnant forest stands by corridors.

  • Critical Species Benefits:  In addition to meeting key habitat needs for bobwhite quail and prairie warbler; describe any significant benefits to other critical woodland/savanna dependent species, as well as aquatic species, referencing any species recovery plans or other conservation plans outlining species goals as appropriate.

  • Partnerships: Demonstrate the ability to involve a range of public/private stakeholders in the area to successfully implement and maintain the project, and create opportunities to attract additional resources to the project.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Present a clear and cost-effective budget. Preference will be given to those projects that can leverage funds from a broad range of sources to meet or exceed the minimum 1:1 match requirement, and promote innovative and cost-effective approaches.

  • Technical Merit: Demonstrate that the project is/will formally engage appropriate technical expertise and assistance throughout project planning, design and implementation to ensure projects are technically-sound and feasible. We recommend that applications be shared with the appropriate NRCS State Conservationist for input and guidance before submission (View NRCS state conservationist contacts).

  • Monitoring:  Provide a plan for monitoring progress during and after the proposed project period to track project success and address new challenges and opportunities as they arise. Applicants should budget time and resources to complete this task during the project period if not already covered through existing responsibilities.

  • Long-term Sustainability: Describe how the project will be maintained to ensure ecosystem benefits are achieved and sustained over time. This should include how future funding will be secured to implement necessary long-term monitoring and maintenance activities.

  • Past Success: Demonstrate a proven track record of applicant and partnership success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.

  • Ancillary Benefits: Describe any ancillary benefits that may result from the project, (e.g., creates a replicable model for landowners; establishes methods that can be shared with other practitioners; creates new partnerships; supports new ecosystem markets, etc.).

ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES

  • Eligible applicants include: non-profit 501(c) organizations; state, tribal, and local governments; and academic institutions. Federal government agencies are not eligible to apply, but may coordinate with other eligible applicants to support projects on federal lands where state, local, and/or private lands are also included.

  • Projects should have a match of at least 1:1 cash or in-kind, but larger match ratios and matching fund contributions from a diversity of partners are encouraged and will be more competitive* (for more information on NFWF’s match policy, click here);

  • Projects must direct the majority of grant funding toward on-the-ground upland and riparian forest habitat restoration/enhancement.

  • Grantees may only use grant funds for indirect costs if 1) the grantee organization has a federally-approved indirect rate; AND, indirect costs do not exceed 15 percent of the total direct costs (even when the federally-approved rate is greater than 15 percent).

  • Proposals must include a map, outlining the projects location within the Cumberland Plateau; the extent of remnant shortleaf and proximity of remnant stands to one another; public lands either at site location or in close proximity to site; characterization of any private land ownership around the site; and the watershed and water resources in the immediate area.

  • Letters of Support:

  • Applicants must highlight how the proposed project is being coordinated with applicable NRCS State Conservationist offices, and letters of support must be submitted by the appropriate NRCS State Conservationist (View NRCS state conservationist contacts).

  • Letters documenting the support/contributions of all other project partners are strongly encouraged.

  • Grant awards may support projects with a project period of up to two years; however, significant project deliverables and outcomes are expected to be achieved in year one.

  • If applicable, successful applicants will be required to provide sufficient documentation that the project expects to receive or has received all necessary permits and clearances to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and any other Federal, state or local ordinances.

INELIGIBLE USE OF GRANT FUNDS

  • Funds granted under this program may not be used to support political advocacy, lobbying or litigation.

  • Grantees 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. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts.

HOW TO APPLY

  1. Go to www.nfwf.org/easygrants. If you are a new Easygrants user, please register. If you are already a registered user, use your existing login.

  2. Cumberland Plateau-Southern Appalachians Fund 2014 from the “Funding Opportunity” list.

  3. Follow the instructions to complete your application. Once you get started, you may save your application in progress and return another time to complete and submit it.

All proposals must be submitted to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation via Easygrants by 11:59pm (CST) on February 27, 2014, for consideration.

QUESTIONS?

For questions about funding priorities and projects, please contact Jon Scott (jonathan.scott@nfwf.org) or Suzanne Sessine (suzanne.sessine@nfwf.org).