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 Sustain Our Great Lakes Program 2013 Request for Proposals

Sustain Our Great Lakes invites applications for competitive funding to be awarded through the 2013 funding cycle.  At the time of this announcement, approximately $5–9 million is expected to be available for grant awards.  To be considered for funding, pre-proposals must be submitted online (www.nfwf.org/easygrants) by 5 PM Eastern Time on February 14, 2013.

Sustain Our Great Lakes Overview

Sustain Our Great Lakes is a public–private partnership among ArcelorMittal, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

Its mission is to sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat in the Great Lakes basin by leveraging funding, building conservation capacity, and focusing partners and resources toward key ecological issues.  The program achieves this mission, in part, by awarding grants for on-the-ground habitat restoration and enhancement.  From 2006 through 2012, the program awarded 167 grants worth $28.9 million in federal and corporate partner funding.  Grantees matched this funding with an additional $29.7 million, for a total conservation investment of $58.6 million.  This investment has provided support for the restoration of: 

  • 846 stream miles of aquatic connectivity
  • 27,000 acres of wetland, coastal and associated upland habitat
  • 104 miles of stream and riparian habitat

Grant Size

Grant awards will range from $25,000 to $1,500,000. 

In past years, Sustain Our Great Lakes offered funding through two grants programs (Stewardship Grants and Community Grants) that differed primarily by grant size.  This year,

Sustain Our Great Lakes is offering funding through a single funding opportunity, and all applicants will submit applications to the same comprehensive program regardless of the size of the funding request.  Full consideration will be given to all applications irrespective of the amount of grant funding requested.  Small and large projects will be funded based on assessment of their individual merits.     

Grant Eligibility

Eligible applicants include:  non-profit 501(c) organizations; state, tribal and local governments; and educational institutions.  Individuals, federal agencies, and private for-profit firms are not eligible.  To be eligible for consideration, projects must:  1) occur within the Great Lakes basin and 2) clearly address one or more of the funding categories described in the following sections. 

For the 2013 funding cycle, Sustain Our Great Lakes will not provide funding for land protection (e.g., acquisition and easement), rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs, or research.  Projects that seek funding for political advocacy, lobbying, litigation, fundraising, or legally mandated mitigation projects are not eligible.

Funding Categories

In 2013, grant funding will be awarded in three categories:

  • Habitat Restoration
  • Delisting of Beneficial Use Impairments within Great Lakes Areas of Concern
  • Private Landowner Technical Assistance

In their application narratives, applicants will need to indicate which of these categories are pertinent to their proposed projects.  A single proposal may address more than one of these categories, but proposals do not need to address multiple categories to be competitive.  For example, an applicant proposing installation of a fish ladder in the Habitat Restoration category should not feel compelled to incorporate an unrelated technical assistance component to the project.  The following sections provide more information on the three funding categories.

Habitat Restoration

Funding in this category will support on-the-ground habitat restoration and enhancement projects that will have enduring and significant positive impacts on the ecological condition of the Great Lakes basin.  Roughly $2–3.5 million is expected to be available for grants in this category.  Applicants in Canada are eligible to receive up to $100,000–250,000 of this funding.  Within Canada, preference will be given to projects in the western Lake Ontario region, particularly near Hamilton, Ontario.

Within this category, funding priority is assigned to the following four focal issues. 

  • Restoration of Aquatic Connectivity

Important activities include but are not limited to:  removal of dams, replacement of bridges and culverts that are barriers to aquatic organisms, and installation of fish passage structures.

  • Riparian and In-stream Habitat Restoration

Important activities include but are not limited to:  streambank stabilization, control of invasive species, restoration of native vegetation, restoration of canopy cover, placement of in-stream habitat structures, and hydrological restoration.

  • Wetland Restoration

Important activities include but are not limited to:  control of invasive species, restoration of native vegetation, and hydrological restoration.

  • Near-shore/Shoreline Habitat Restoration

Important activities include but are not limited to:  restoration/enhancement of spawning reefs, removal of artificial structures causing shoreline fragmentation, restoration of natural beach topography, and control of invasive species.

Additional preference will be given to projects that benefit species of conservation concern.  Species of conservation concern include but are not limited to animals and plants identified as threatened, endangered or special concern at the state, provincial or federal level.  Preference will be given to proposals that identify pertinent species and quantify:  1) the expected increase in high-quality habitat available to them; and 2) the expected population benefits.

To be competitive, applicants seeking funding for invasive species control must demonstrate how:  1) the proposed work relates to a comprehensive invasive species control strategy; and 2) the outcomes of the work will be sustained through time.

Projects funded in the Habitat Restoration category will typically:

  • Restore or enhance habitats at scales on the order of tens to hundreds of acres, thousands of stream feet to multiple stream miles, or larger.   
  • Apply the bulk (>90%) of grant funding to on-the-ground habitat improvement work, with the option of using the remaining funds for planning, design, engineering, outreach or education.
  • Have completed planning, design and engineering stages to the extent that on-the-ground implementation can begin shortly after the grant is awarded. 
  • Include pre- and post-implementation monitoring to document habitat improvements and other project outcomes.
  • Provide long-lasting ecological benefits, as demonstrated by provisions for long-term maintenance and management as appropriate. 

Delisting of Beneficial Use Impairments

Funding in this category will support projects that accelerate delisting of habitat-related Beneficial Use Impairments within U.S. or bi-national Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs).  Roughly $3–4.5 million is expected to be available for grants in this category.  To qualify for this funding, applicants must identify pertinent Beneficial Use Impairments and clearly demonstrate how the proposed work will accelerate their delisting.  Preference will be given to projects identified as priorities in Stage 2 Remedial Action Plans (RAPs). 

At the full proposal stage, applicants seeking consideration in this category will be required to submit two letters of support.  One letter must be from the state agency responsible for implementing the RAP.  The other letter must be from the local public stakeholder group working with the state agency to implement the RAP.  Both letters should show that the project is on the state agency's list of projects required for AOC delisting.  More information on AOCs and Beneficial Use Impairments can be found at:  http://epa.gov/glnpo/aoc/index.html and www.ijc.org/rel/boards/annex2/buis.htm.

Projects funded in the Beneficial Use Impairment Delisting category will typically share the features described in the 5-point bulleted list at the bottom of the preceding Habitat Restoration section. 

Private Landowner Technical Assistance

Funding in this category will support technical assistance to farmers, foresters and other private landowners to help optimize wildlife conservation on private lands in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes basin.  Roughly $500–700 thousand will be available for grants in this category.  Approximately half of this funding can be used to support technical assistance in any part of the U.S. portion of the basin, whereas the other half is available specifically for private landowner technical assistance in targeted areas of Michigan.    

U.S. Great Lakes Basin

This technical assistance funding is intended to increase the effectiveness of Farm Bill conservation programs within the basin.  Grant funding may be used to hire field biologists and other habitat professionals (botanists, ecologists, foresters, etc.) who will work with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field offices for up to two years.  Typical grant awards to support these positions will range from $50,000 to $250,000.  A matching contribution of at least 1:1 non-federal cash or in-kind services is required.  At the full proposal stage, applicants seeking consideration in this category will be required to submit a letter of support from the NRCS State Conservationist(s) in the state(s) where work is proposed.  Additional information on the requirements of this funding can be found at: www.nfwf.org/conservationpartners. 

Michigan Only

Distinct from the technical assistance funding described above, a second source of funding is available for technical assistance projects in the Saginaw Bay watershed and the Michigan portion of the western Lake Erie basin.  This funding will address the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative priority of protecting these impaired watersheds from phosphorus runoff and harmful algae.  Grant funding will be used to hire field conservation professionals who will, in collaboration with Michigan NRCS field offices, assist private landowners and increase participation in federal Farm Bill programs to reduce phosphorus runoff from agricultural lands and improve the ecological condition of these watersheds.  Positions will be supported by grant funding for up to two years.  Typical grant awards to support these positions will range from $50,000 to $300,000, and a matching contribution of at least 1:1 non-federal cash or in-kind services is required.  At the full proposal stage, applicants seeking consideration for this funding will be required to submit a letter of support from the Michigan NRCS State Conservationist.  Priority actions for this Michigan technical assistance funding include: 

  • Reducing phosphorus loading from agricultural lands in Phosphorus Priority Areas
  • Implementing EQIP Non-Point Source strategies in EQIP Priority Watersheds

A map of Phosphorus Priority Areas and EQIP Priority Watersheds in Michigan can be found by clicking here. 

Projects funded in the Private Landowner Technical Assistance category will typically:

  • Support 1–2 full-time equivalent employees per year.
  • Conduct outreach to hundreds of private landowners.
  • Engage 25 or more private landowners in Farm Bill programs and/or other conservation actions.
  • Provide technical assistance for the restoration or protection of thousands of acres.

Matching Contributions

The ratio of matching contributions offered to grant funding requested is one criterion considered during the review process, and projects that meet or exceed a 1:1 match ratio will be more competitive.   (Note:  a minimum 1:1 non-federal match is required for private landowner technical assistance projects; see description in previous section)

Matching contributions 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.  The cost of recent land acquisition or easement may also qualify as match for a project involving work at the acquired site.  In addition, indirect costs that would not be paid with requested grant funding may be applied as match by an applicant with a federally approved indirect rate.  More information about using indirect costs as match can be found at:  www.nfwf.org/indirect.

To be eligible, matching contributions must be:

  • non-Federal (U.S.) in origin (federally appropriated or managed funds are ineligible);
  • raised and dedicated specifically for the project;
  • voluntary in nature (mitigation, restitution, or other permit or court-ordered settlements are ineligible);
  • applied only to the Sustain Our Great Lakes grant and not to any other matching program(s); and
  • spent/applied between the project start and end dates designated in the grant application (the start date may be back-dated up to 1 year prior to the pre-proposal deadline to allow recent work directed to the project to be applied as match).

Project Duration

Anticipated completion time for funded projects will typically be 2 years following finalization of a grant agreement.  Projects may be a discrete part of a longer-term project, provided there are definable outcomes for the proposed phase of the overall effort.  The project narrative should include a clear timetable or schedule for project completion.

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 or applied.  The start date may be back-dated up to 1 year prior to the pre-proposal deadline to allow work directed to the project to be applied as match (back-dating does not reduce the prospective 2-year duration of a grant going forward).

Evaluation Criteria

The most-competitive proposals will demonstrate:

  • Close alignment with funding priorities
  • Clear definition of activities and anticipated ecological results
  • Strong technical merit
  • Competitive project costs
  • Experienced project teams and partner engagement
  • Plans for pre- and post-implementation monitoring to document project outcomes

A panel of state, tribal and provincial reviewers and the Sustain Our Great Lakes advisory team will use those criteria as a strong basis for project selections; however, project selections will also be based on other considerations, such as availability of funding, geographic balance, and balance among project types and grant size.  In addition, selections may be based on how activities advance goals and objectives of established watershed, regional, tribal, state, federal and provincial conservation plans.  A few examples among the many relevant existing plans include Area of Concern Remedial Action Plans, Lakewide Action and Management Plans (including the new biodiversity conservation strategies), endangered species recovery plans, and aquatic invasive species management plans.  Applicants are encouraged to identify how the project will increase habitat resilience within the context of increased stress from a changing climate.

How To Apply

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.  An application can be started by clicking on the following link: www.nfwf.org/easygrants (Note:  the internet browser pop-up blocker must be disabled prior to beginning the application process).  New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting their application.  Once an application has been initiated, it may be saved and then modified and submitted at a later time, up to the application deadline.   Other useful information for applicants, including videos that demonstrate the Easygrants online system can be found at: www.nfwf.org/applicantinfo.

At the pre-proposal stage, the only file an applicant must upload into Easygrants is a three-page Pre-proposal Narrative.  An applicant invited to submit a full proposal will be required to upload several additional files.  Required and optional files to be uploaded for the full proposal are described in Table 1 on the following page.

Grant Application Webinar

Sustain Our Great Lakes partners will host a webinar on January 15, 2013 at 11 AM Eastern Time/10 AM Central Time.  The webinar will provide additional information on the Sustain Our Great Lakes funding opportunity, provide additional guidance on the application process, and provide answers to participant questions.  Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to participate.  Webinar participants can register at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/517587032.

Table 1.  Required and optional files to be uploaded at the full proposal stage.

File

Required or Optional

Notes

Full proposal narrative

Required

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

Board of Trustees

Required

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 

Required

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 

Required

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

IRS Form 990 

Required

If your organization is not a non-profit organization, upload a document stating that a 990 Form is not required.  If your non-profit organization is based in Canada, you may upload a T3010A Form instead of a 990 Form.

Statement of Litigation

Required

Template provided in Easygrants

Map of project location 

Required

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

Map of project site/restoration design 

Optional

To provide finer resolution than map of project location.

Letters of Support

Required

Include a letter of support from the landowner(s) where the proposed restoration would occur.  Applicants seeking consideration in the Delisting of Beneficial Use Impairments category must submit letters of support from the state agency and the local public stakeholder group working to implement the RAP.  Applicants seeking consideration in the technical assistance category must submit a letter from the relevant NRCS State Conservationist(s).  Letters from other significant partners, especially those providing match, are encouraged.

Other relevant documents, figures and photos

Optional

10-page limit

 

Application and Review Timeline

To be considered for funding, pre-proposals must be submitted online by 5 PM Eastern Time on February 14, 2013.  Invited full proposals will be due on April 30, 2013.

  • Feb 14, 2013:  Pre-proposals due
  • Feb 15 – Mar 27, 2013:  Pre-proposals reviewed
  • Mar 28, 2013:  Applicants notified of pre-proposal decisions; full proposals invited
  • Apr 30, 2013:  Full proposals due
  • May 1, 2013 – Jun 13, 2013:  Full proposals reviewed
  • Jun 14 – Jul 14, 2013:  Congressional notification of intent to award grants
  • Jul 15 – Jul 31, 2013:  Anticipated announcement of awards
  • Aug – Oct 2013:  Grant agreements developed with successful applicants

General Procedures for Grant Recipients

After project selection, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation staff will work with applicants to prepare grant agreements and other necessary paperwork, all of which will be completed electronically using the Easygrants system.  Additional information about the grantee’s organization and its finances may be solicited during this time.  Please note that preparation of grant agreements will require approximately 4 to 8 weeks after the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation receives the additional required information from the grantee.  Once grant agreements are finalized, funds will be advanced to qualified grantees based on cash needs of the project; most awards will be made on a reimbursable basis.  Grantees will be required to submit interim and final financial and programmatic reports. 

Regulatory Compliance

Grant awards will be supported variously with funding from several public and private sources, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  Projects selected to receive Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding will be subject to requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Historic Preservation Act.  Documentation of compliance with these regulations must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) prior to initiating activities that disturb or alter habitat or other features of the project site(s).  Grantees shall provide the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with the documentation needed to obtain Service approval.  In addition, if a project involves environmental monitoring, data collection/generation, or data use, the grantee will be asked to prepare and submit quality assurance documentation as part of the grant (www.epa.gov/quality/qapps.html).  Applicants should budget time and resources to complete these tasks. 

Additional Information and Application Assistance

For more information about the grants program or for assistance with the application process, please contact Todd Hogrefe (todd.hogrefe@nfwf.org; 612-564-7286) at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  Additional information can also be found on the Sustain Our Great Lakes website at:  www.sustainourgreatlakes.org.

Partner Information

For additional information on the Sustain Our Great Lakes partners and their work in the Great Lakes basin, please click on the following links: