Sustain Our Great Lakes Program 2014 Request for Proposals

Sustain Our Great Lakes invites applications for competitive funding to be awarded through the 2014 funding cycle. At the time of this announcement, approximately $5–8 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 18, 2014.

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, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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 2013, the program awarded 193 grants worth $37.1 million in federal and corporate partner funding. Grantees matched this funding with an additional $38.2 million, for a total conservation investment of $75.3 million. This investment has provided support for the restoration of:

  • 1,039 stream miles of aquatic connectivity

  • 37,751 acres of wetland, coastal and associated upland habitat

  • 127 miles of stream and riparian habitat

Grant Size

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

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 current or historic Great Lakes basin; and 2) clearly address one or more of the funding categories described in the following sections.

For the 2014 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 2014, grant funding will be awarded in two categories:

  1. Habitat Restoration

  2. Delisting of Beneficial Use Impairments within Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Funding Category 1: 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. Approximately $2–3.5 million is expected to be available for grants in this category. A total of $100,000–250,000 of this funding may be directed to projects in Canada. 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: removal of dams, replacement of bridges and culverts that are passage barriers, and installation of fish passage structures

  • Riparian and In-stream Habitat Restoration: restoration of hydrology and other physical processes, placement of in-stream habitat structures, stabilization of stream banks, control of invasive species, and restoration of native vegetation

  • Wetland Restoration: restoration of hydrology and other physical processes, control of invasive species, and restoration of native vegetation

  • Near-shore/Shoreline Habitat Restoration: 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 that is part of an overall restoration plan; 2) native vegetation will be re-established at the project site(s), as appropriate; and 3) the outcomes of the work will be sustained through time.

Funding Category 2: 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). Approximately $3–4.5 million is expected to be available for grants in this category. To qualify, 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 pre-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 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 here and here.

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.

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 here.

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. The grant period may include a third year in cases where there is a demonstrated need for additional time to complete planning, permitting, final design, engineering, implementation or monitoring. 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 duration of a grant going forward).

Projects may be a discrete part of a longer-term project, provided there are definable outcomes for the proposed phase of the overall effort.

Monitoring

Each proposal should describe a monitoring plan to measure the outcomes and assess the success of the proposed project. At a minimum, the description should: 1) indicate the metrics that will be used to track progress and quantify outcomes; 2) outline the approach for establishing baseline conditions against which post-implementation conditions will be compared; and 3) demonstrate plans and resources for post-implementation monitoring.

Applicants may use grant funding to support monitoring activities associated with the proposed project. Applicants are encouraged to direct approximately 5–10 percent of the project budget toward this need. Some projects, particularly those proposing experimental restoration techniques, may warrant using a larger amount of the project budget for monitoring. Within the proposal budget, monitoring-related expenses should be described in the details section for each applicable budget category (e.g., Salaries and Benefits, Contractual Services).

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

  • Matching contributions

  • Experienced project teams and partner engagement

  • Plans for pre- and post-implementation monitoring to document project outcomes

  • Plans for long-term operation, maintenance and management

Funded projects will typically:

  1. Restore or enhance habitats on the order of tens to hundreds of acres, hundreds of stream feet to multiple stream miles, or larger.

  2. Apply the bulk (>70%) of grant funding to on-the-ground habitat improvement work, with the option of using the remaining funds for planning, permitting, final design, engineering, monitoring, outreach or education.

  3. Have completed planning, design and engineering stages to the extent that on-the-ground implementation can begin shortly after the grant is awarded.

  4. Include pre- and post-implementation monitoring to document habitat improvements and other project outcomes.

  5. Provide long-lasting ecological benefits, as demonstrated by provisions for long-term operation, maintenance and management, as appropriate.

A panel of state 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 include Area of Concern Remedial Action Plans, Lakewide Action and Management Plans (including the new lake basin 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 the 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.

At the pre-proposal stage, applicants must upload a three-page Pre-proposal Narrative. The narrative template that must be used is available for downloading in Easygrants once an application has been initiated. Prior to initiating an application, potential applicants can view the narrative template at: www.sustainourgreatlakes.org/Apply.aspx.

At the pre-proposal stage, applicants applying in the Delisting of Beneficial Use Impairments category must also submit two letters of support. One letter must be from the state agency responsible for implementing the RAP for the relevant AOC. The other letter must be from the 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.

Applicants 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 below.

Grant Application Webinar

Sustain Our Great Lakes partners will host a webinar on January 15, 2014 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 here.

Application and Review Timeline

To be considered for funding, pre-proposals must be submitted online by 5 PM Eastern Time on February 18, 2014. Invited full proposals will be due on April 28, 2014.

  • Feb 18, 2014: Pre-proposals due

  • Feb 19 – Mar 26, 2014: Pre-proposals reviewed

  • Mar 27, 2014: Applicants notified of pre-proposal decisions; full proposals invited

  • Apr 28, 2014: Full proposals due

  • Apr 29 – Jun 12, 2014: Full proposals reviewed

  • Jun 13 – Jul 13, 2014: Congressional notification of intent to award grants

  • Jul 14 – Jul 31, 2014: Anticipated announcement of awards

  • Aug – Oct 2014:  Grant agreements developed with successful applicants

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

File

Required or Optional

Notes

Full proposal narrative

Required

Completed narrative not to exceed 6 pages; template provided in Easygrants; 

available for viewing at: www.sustainourgreatlakes.org/Apply.aspx

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.

Letters of Support

Required

Include a letter of support from the landowner(s) where the proposed work would occur.  In the Delisting of Beneficial Use Impairments category, applicants should resubmit the letters of support from the state agency and the local public stakeholder group that were submitted previously at the pre-proposal stage.  Letters from other significant partners are encouraged. 

Conceptual plans

Optional 

To illustrate the design and anticipated outcomes of the proposed work.

Photos - JPEG

Optional

Compress photos to the extent possible without creating image-quality problems.

Other relevant documents

Optional

10-page limit

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, most awards will be made on a reimbursable basis.  However, funds may be advanced to qualified grantees based on cash needs of the project.  Grantees will be required to submit interim and final financial and programmatic reports. 

Regulatory Compliance

Grants will be supported variously with funding from several sources, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).  Projects selected to receive GLRI 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 monitoring, data collection or data use, the grantee will be asked to prepare and submit quality assurance documentation (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) or Ellen Gibson (ellen.gibson@nfwf.org; 612-564-7253) at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Additional information can be found at:  www.sustainourgreatlakes.org.

Partner Information