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 Longleaf Stewardship Fund RFP 2014

Proposal Due Date: Thursday, February 13th, 2014 (midnight CST) 

OVERVIEW

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is seeking proposals to expand, enhance and accelerate longleaf pine ecosystem restoration across longleaf pine’s historical range. The Longleaf Stewardship Fund (LSF) is a landmark public-private partnership supported with Federal funding from the Department of Defense (DoD), USDA’s Forest Service (FS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and private funding from Southern Company and International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Initiative.

Up to $3.3 million in grant funds is available in 2014. Grant awards will range from $50,000 to $350,000, depending on the category for which the applicant is requesting funds and overall scale of the project.  Awards are anticipated to be announced by July 2014.

APPLICANT WEBINAR AND RESOURCES

NFWF will host a webinar for applicants on Thursday, January 9th, 2014 to review this Request for Proposals and respond to questions. Applicants are strongly encouraged to participate, and can register for the webinar here: Webinar Registration

Information on the grants previously awarded through the Fund and general information on longleaf restoration strategies and goals also can be found at www.nfwf.org/longleaf and http://www.americaslongleaf.org/. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Suzanne Sessine at suzanne.sessine@nfwf.org, or Jon Scott at jonathan.scott@nfwf.org to discuss project ideas.

CONSERVATION GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The Longleaf Stewardship Fund supports accelerated restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem on public and private lands through collaborative and result-oriented actions that contribute to the strategic restoration goals in the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine, as part of the America's Longleaf Restoration Initiative (The Initiative). The three-year priorities and actions to advance these goals are outlined in The Initiative’s Strategic Priorities and Actions 2013-2015 document.

Specifically, the Longleaf Stewardship Fund seeks to achieve the following conservation outcomes this grant round:

  • Restore an additional 11,000 to 16,000 acres of longleaf pine on public and private lands (approximately 10 percent of The Initiative’s annual restoration goal).

  • Maintain or enhance through burning 125,000 to 165,000 acres of longleaf pine on public or private lands (approximately 10 percent of The Initiative’s annual prescribed fire goal).

  • Increase populations of longleaf ecosystem keystone or umbrella species (such as the Bachman’s sparrow, bobwhite quail, red-cockaded woodpecker, and gopher tortoise).

  • Involve more than 300 private landowners in longleaf stewardship practices that directly 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 funds requested will directly and measurably contribute to these goals.

FUNDING CATEGORIES AND GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

Grants will be awarded in one of two categories:

Partnership-based, Large-Scale Restoration (Significant Geographic Areas)

Grants ranging from $150,000 to $350,000 will be awarded to partnership-based projects that significantly advance local longleaf pine restoration and enhancement objectives within areas designated as “significant geographic areas” (SGAs) or “significant sites” in the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine.  These sites are anchored by DoD Military Installations/Bases, National Forests or FWS Wildlife Refuges, as well as state or other protected lands. (View Map of SGAs)  Projects in this category must directly support conservation goals and strategies embraced by relevant stakeholders in these landscapes and advance the goals and missions of our federal and private funding partners.

To promote coordination and prioritize limited funding across multiple sites, applicants are  strongly encouraged to collaborate on proposals and submit one comprehensive application per SGA or significant site, clearly outline the role of each partner participating in the project, and provide a map identifying where proposed activities will take place. 

NOTE: DOD Mission Objectives Support

For SGAs or sites that include military bases or installations, applications must also demonstrate how projects proposed will support DoD’s mission objectives and include a letter from the Commander of the installation, or official designee, briefly explaining how the project supports the military mission. Please see “Additional Requirements” at the end of the RFP for additional instructions.  

Targeted Restoration and Outreach (Range-wide)

Grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 will be awarded for strategic, on-the-ground restoration and private landowner outreach that occurs within the historical longleaf range in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. (View Map)  Projects in this category may include a variety of activities (particularly longleaf establishment; forest/habitat enhancement practices; and landowner technical assistance and outreach) that advance longleaf pine ecosystem conservation goals and result in measurable improvements to forest health, wildlife habitat and targeted species populations. Any project overlapping with an SGA should demonstrate coordination with the relevant SGA partnership (i.e. to ensure that proposed activities do not duplicate, but enhance or leverage existing/planned SGA activities) - Contact Information for SGAs

PRIORITY FUNDING PRIORITIES

Priority will be given to both SGA and Range-wide projects that effectively implement one or more of the strategies below:

1. Establishing Longleaf Pine

Preference will be given to projects that:

  • Establish longleaf in areas adjacent or in close proximity to existing longleaf stands receiving appropriate management treatment at regular intervals, or on existing protected lands likely to receive long-term management.
  • Utilize a planting density of 400-600 trees per acres, as recommended for meeting both wildlife and timber objectives (see Longleaf Partnership Council’s White Paper on Longleaf Planting Density). Proposals must clearly explain any deviations from this recommended planting density range.
  • Include all necessary site prep and plans for management (e.g., mechanical treatments, prescribed burning, etc.) at appropriate intervals to promote long-term sustainability. 

2. Enhancing and Maintaining Existing Longleaf Pine Ecosystems

Preference will be given to projects to support prescribed fire and additional management treatments when burning alone is not sufficient, including projects that: 

  • Maintain, expand, and promote the appropriate frequency (2-3 years) of prescribed fire across the longleaf landscape.
  • Increase prescribed fire capacity, coordination and collaboration across organizations and agencies to increase the number of acres treated with prescribed fire (through fire teams or other strategies).
  • Increase the acres and frequency of prescribed fire on private lands by providing technical assistance, training or other landowner incentives.
  • Identify and address specific barriers or roadblocks to fire introduction in a specific geography (i.e., insurance, liability, community issues, etc.).
  • Improve and maintain existing longleaf pine ecosystems through thinning, invasive species control, mechanical treatments (when prescribed fire is not sufficient or practical), or planting native understory species where appropriate. 

3. Expanding and Coordinating Private Landowner Technical Assistance and Outreach

Preference will be given to projects that implement targeted outreach and assistance to increase the number of private landowners engaged in longleaf pine stewardship practices. Proposals must project the amount of acres to be restored or enhanced as a result of proposed technical assistance and outreach activities. Projects also should increase coordination across agencies and organizations and improve delivery of landowner technical assistance for longleaf pine recovery efforts, as well as target outreach to private lands adjacent to or in close proximity to established longleaf stands receiving appropriate management treatments at regular intervals.

Priority will be given to projects that:

  • Increase “Boots on-the-ground”: Support additional landowner outreach and technical assistance providers to expand on-the-ground restoration and protection activities on private lands.  Proposals should describe the current technical assistance capacity within the focal geographic area and explain how new “boots on-the-ground” will target additional capacity, align with existing tools and resources (such as increasing participation in cost-share programs, third-party forest certification and other market-based initiatives) and coordinate among existing providers to achieve specific conservation outcomes.
  • Advance New Market-based Incentive Programs:  Pilot innovative, market-based solutions and incentive programs that stimulate landowner participation in longleaf recovery efforts; expand contract periods to sustain longleaf restoration activities; and/or, enhance on-the-ground restoration and maintenance activities to achieve longleaf pine ideal habitat conditions. Strategies may include coupling new incentive payments funded through LSF 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.

As part of implementing the three strategies above, projects are encouraged to integrate species strategies to support red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise recovery; build the capacity of local implementation teams dedicated to restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem; and restore bottomland hardwood habitat in areas near proposed longleaf activities in Louisiana, Texas, or within the coastal plain of North Carolina and South Carolina will be considered. Strategies may include the following:

4. Accelerating Species Recovery (for SGA and Range-wide projects)

As part of a larger longleaf habitat restoration or enhancement project, implement translocation and other supporting activities to aid recovery of red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise populations that may not respond as quickly to improved habitat conditions alone due to insufficient source populations, and where translocation is very likely to develop viable and sustainable populations.

5. Building and Improving Organizational Capacity (for SGA projects only)

Roughly 10 percent of grant funding will be allocated to strengthen Local Implementation Team capacity to establish, advance and/or lead a comprehensive longleaf ecosystem restoration strategy and accomplish conservation goals within defined SGAs or “significant sites” that need assistance.  As defined in The Initiative’s Strategic Priorities and Actions document, the purpose of a local implementation team is to 1) Organize, plan, and deliver on-the-ground conservation actions within their self-defined geographic area, and 2) Engage landowners with technical or financial resources to meet the overall goals of The Initiative.

Proposed capacity-building activities must be integrated as part of a larger project that addresses the three LSF priority funding strategies above.  Proposals must clearly detail how capacity investments will lead to measurable conservation outcomes and include the following components:

  • Planning: Develop a conservation plan* for the SGA that defines measurable, large-scale longleaf restoration and enhancement goals and expected conservation outcomes; details strategic actions and priority target locations; lists near-term implementation actions and associated costs; and describes methods for monitoring and evaluating progress.

*Note: A plan template will be provided as part of the application.  An initial draft must be submitted for any SGA proposal. Please contact Jon Scott at jonathan.scott@nfwf.org to receive the template and additional guidance.

  • Coordination: Support a Local Implementation Team Coordinator position to provide overall coordination across all SGA/significant site partners, priorities and activities, and accelerate achievement of longleaf restoration and maintenance goals for the defined region. Requests for this type of support must include a clear work plan that outlines how the Coordinator will facilitate the SGA/significant site’s conservation plan completion; monitor and track progress and achievements of key activities, milestones and goals; and include participation in the annual Local Implementation Team Coordinator meeting (travel costs may be included). Proposals also should address how the position will be supported long-term and sustained through other financial resources.

6. Bottomland Hardwood Restoration and Enhancement  (for LA, TX and NC/SC Coastal Plain projects only)

A limited amount of funding is available for targeted restoration and enhancement of bottomland hardwood habitat as part of larger longleaf restoration proposals, where these areas are adjacent or near proposed longleaf restoration sites. Examples of strategies that will be considered include:

  • Site prep and planting of desired hardwood species in bottomlands, particularly along riparian corridors.
  • Maintaining and enhancing planted acreage through invasives control, intermediate thinnings and additional underplanting as necessary.
  • Thinning undesirable competing species to promote release of hardwood understory or allow for natural regeneration in bottomlands.

FUNDING ALLOCATION

We anticipate the following approximate allocation of LSF funding to the strategies outlined above:

  • 25 percent to establishment of longleaf pine
  • 25 percent to enhancing and maintaining  existing longleaf pine
  • 30 percent to engaging private landowners in longleaf stewardship practices
  • 20 percent to species translocation, organizational capacity, and bottomland hardwoods restoration in eligible areas

*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 longleaf restoration efforts and where grant funds can be substantially leveraged with other public and private resources. Specific measurable outcomes meeting the goals of LSF must be included.

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 Longleaf Stewardship Fund’s overall acreage and species goals. Those that make the strongest and most deliberate link will be more competitive.  All proposals must include specific, quantitative, performance metrics that will be tracked and measured to evaluate the success of the project.

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

  • Conservation Plan and Context: Describe how the project fits into and advances an existing conservation plan or strategy that benefits the longleaf pine ecosystem. Proposals also should highlight how these efforts will expand new or existing restoration and conservation initiatives to maximize large-scale ecosystem function.

  • Critical Species Benefits: In addition to meeting key habitat needs for Bachman’s sparrow, bobwhite quail, red-cockaded woodpecker, and gopher tortoise; describe any significant benefits to other critical species, referencing any species recovery plans or other conservation plans outlining species goals as appropriate.

  • Partnerships: Demonstrate that an appropriate partnership exists, or is being developed, to successfully implement and maintain the project. For SGA projects, this should include appropriate federal, state, local, and private partners. Coordination with the military is strongly encouraged where possible (e.g., work with a local installation to support the military mission and demonstrate an understanding of the installation’s longleaf objectives). The respective role of each partner should be clearly described in the proposal.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Present a clearly detailed, cost-effective budget. Preference will be given to those projects that leverage funds from a broad range of sources to exceed the minimum 1:1 non-federal match requirement, and promote innovative and cost-effective strategies.

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

  • Monitoring:  Provide a plan for monitoring progress during and after the proposed project period to track project success and adaptively 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 longleaf 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 longleaf conservation practices with specific, measurable results. Recipients of previous Longleaf Stewardship Fund grants must provide a brief update on status (see Eligibility Guidelines below).

  • Veteran and Youth Opportunities: Projects that include a significant role for veterans and youth are encouraged. Participation of veterans and youth may include commitments designed to educate and provide hands-on experiences (such as employment opportunities or internships) to aid future employment opportunities in natural resource conservation, natural and cultural history and related fields.  Engaging veterans and youth in volunteer activities at the project level also are welcomed.

  • Dissemination and Transferability: Showcase new and refine existing restoration methods and techniques to other land managers and landowners, and demonstrate a clear strategy for expanding the collective knowledge of cost-effective, sustainable longleaf restoration strategies.

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

 ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES

  • Eligible applicants include: non-profit 501(c) organizations; state, tribal, and local governments; and academic institutions. Work on state, local, and private lands is eligible across all states. Currently, work on federal lands is eligible across the historic longleaf range, with the exception of the Florida peninsula and the westernmost portion of the longleaf range in North and South Carolina. These projects must be part of projects where state, local, and/or private lands also are included.
  • Projects must have a minimum match of 1:1 non-federal 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).  Applicants are encouraged to list federal partner contributions as well, although those contributions may not count toward the minimum match.

*Note that landowner contributions being used as match for a Longleaf Stewardship Fund grant must be outside of the amount already written into any NRCS contract as a cost-share contribution.

  • Projects must direct the majority of grant funding toward on-the-ground longleaf pine habitat restoration/enhancement.
  • Grantees may only use grant funds for indirect costs if the grantee organization has a federally-approved indirect rate AND indirect costs do not exceed 15 percent of the total grant request (even when the federally-approved rate is greater than 15 percent).
  • Letters of Support:
    • Applicants must highlight how the proposed project is being coordinated with applicable NRCS State Conservationist and State Forestry offices, and letters of support must be submitted by the appropriate NRCS State Conservationist and State Forestry office (View NRCS state conservationist and state forestry contacts).
    • Letters of support from the appropriate military installation/base Commander, or official designee, that address the project benefits to the military mission are required for projects involving or benefitting a local military installation or base (see “Additional Requirements” below).
    • 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.
  • All applicants with active grants from NFWF must be in good standing in terms of reporting requirements. Recipients of previous Longleaf Stewardship Fund grants must provide a brief update on status, both in terms of timeline of activities and any accomplishments, and clearly describe how this current proposal builds on those activities and accomplishments and that the capacity is in place to support the additional activities for which funding is requested.

  • As 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 all 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 (and must clearly distinguish what is additive from baseline compliance).

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS

DoD Mission Objectives Support

For SGAs or sites that include military bases or installations, applications must demonstrate how proposed projects will support DoD’s mission objectives by one or more of the following*:

  • Protecting, sustaining or enhancing range and installation missions, and facilitating continuing capabilities for military testing, training and operations by restoring and enhancing longleaf in areas buffering a base or installation.
  • Conserving important natural resources that will enhance mission operations. Importance may be determined in terms of ecosystem function, regulatory status and relationship to military mission objectives.  Lands closer to military operations are generally preferred, but lands further from military operations will be considered if the proposed action will provide demonstrated conservation benefit to at-risk species that may be taken into consideration in regulatory consultations involving FWS.
  • Include a letter from the Commander of the installation, or official designee, briefly explaining how the project supports the military mission, such as providing support for the installation’s Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP), or improving habitat outside the installation that supports candidate or threatened and endangered species of concern to the installation. 

* A form with specific questions to be answered by the appropriate local military natural resource liaison is available by emailing Jon Scott at jonathan.scott@nfwf.org and should be included as part of the application.

Southern Company

Please visit the following links to learn about carbon sequestration and communications requirements for projects funded in Southern Company operating areas:

Carbon sequestration policy 

Grantee Communications Guidance

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. Select “Longleaf Stewardship Fund 2014” from the “Funding Opportunity” list.
  3. Follow the instructions and refer to the Longleaf Stewardship Fund Easygrants Cheat Sheet, which may be downloaded at www.nfwf.org/longleaf 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 13th, 2014, for consideration. 

IMPORTANT DATES:

January 9th, 2014: Webinar for Potential Applicants

February 13th, 2014:  Proposals due

July 2014: Anticipated announcement of awards

QUESTIONS

For additional information, please contact Suzanne Sessine (suzanne.sessine@nfwf.org), Jon Scott (jonathan.scott@nfwf.org), or Lindsay Vacek (lindsay.vacek@nfwf.org) via e-mail or phone at (202) 857-0166.