Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund 2018 Request for Proposals

Applicant Webinar [Register Here]: Wednesday, December 20 at 2:00 PM EST
Full Proposal Due Date:  Thursday, January 25,​​ 2018 by 11:59 PM EST

OVERVIEW

The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund will award grants to expand bottomland hardwood and wetland restoration, enhancement, conservation, and protection on private and public lands to improve wildlife habitat and water quality. Major funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, the Walton Family Foundation, and the American Forest Foundation’s Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife partnership. Up to $3 million is anticipated to be available for grants in 2018. 

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund will award grants within the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV) region of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee as depicted in Map 1. A more detailed interactive map can be viewed here: Interactive Map​.


PROGRAM PRIORITIES

The fund has five different strategies and projects should effectively implement one or more of the strategies detailed below. Strategies 1 and 2 are high priorities for the Fund in 2018 and preference will be given to projects that incorporate these strategies. For projects focused on working with private landowners, special emphasis will be placed on projects to engage beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, limited resource farmers or ranchers, Tribes and veteran farmers and ranchers. 

Proposals also should address how project activities will contribute to improved populations of species that are representative of healthy bottomland forest and wetland systems, such as Kentucky warbler, green-winged teal, wood duck, mallard, Louisiana black bear, Pallid sturgeon and other waterfowl, interior forest birds, fish, freshwater mussels, reptiles and amphibians.

  1. Enhance and Maintain Existing Bottomland Hardwood Forests: Promote and implement the appropriate management and enhancement of existing bottomland hardwood forests to improve wildlife habitat1.  Projects should include lands enrolled in the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) or Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE).
    • ​Ma​intain and enhance planted acreage and/or natural stands through invasive species control, intermediate thinning, and residual stocking as necessary to promote forest health and improve wildlife habitat. 
    • Provide technical assistance, training and/or other incentives to enhance existing bottomland hardwood forests on private lands, including assisting private landowners with bottomland hardwood treatments on existing WRP and ACEP-WRE contracts. Projects that include treatments on properties enrolled in WRP or ACEP-WRE should reference the Tool for Assessment and Treatment of Reforested Bottomland Hardwood Stands on Wetland Reserve Easements
    • Develop demonstration sites that can be used to educate landowners and land managers on bottomland hardwood management and habitat enhancement practices. 
    • Identify and address specific barriers to bottomland hardwood management and habitat enhancement in a specific geography (i.e., lack of markets, community issues, etc.). Innovative strategies that test models with the potential of being transferred across the landscape are encouraged.
  2. ​Restore and Enhance Wetland Forest and Floodplain Hydrology and Improve Water Quality: Improve wildlife habitat, water quality, and water quantity through the use of appropriate hydrological restoration and enhancement practices, as well as other best management practices. Projects should include lands enrolled in WRP and/or ACEP-WRE.
    • ​​Improve hydrological connectivity, including connecting water features between adjacent tracts enrolled in WRP and/or ACEP-WRE.
    • Improve wetland habitat and function on WRP and/or ACEP-WRE tracts and other private lands through vegetation management, managing for most soil plants, and restoring wetland infrastructure for water management capability.
    • Improve water quality by rerouting agriculture runoff to constructed or restored wetlands, rehabilitating or stabilizing ditches and/or gullies, and/or establishing buffer strips to facilitate nutrient and sediment removal.
  3. ​​Establish Bottomland Hardwood Forests: Projects may include reforestation and/or afforestation of cropland through site preparation and planting of bottomland hardwoods, as well as practices to promote natural regeneration of bottomland hardwood forest. Preference will be given to projects that contribute to landscape-scale habitat connectivity to benefit wildlife. Projects should include lands enrolled in WRP and/or ACEP-WRE. Projects should:
    • ​​Describe all necessary site preparation for planting, or natural regeneration, and summarize plans (e.g., mechanical and/or chemical treatments, etc.) to promote long-term sustainability. 
  4. Expand and Coordinate Private Landowner Technical Assistance and Outreach: Preference will be given to projects that implement targeted outreach and technical assistance to increase the number of private landowners engaged in bottomland forest and wetland restoration, enhancement, and protection, including enrollment in NRCS ACEP-WRE, EQIP and other federal or state financial assistance programs. Proposals must estimate the amount of acres to be restored or enhanced as a result of proposed activities. Projects also should demonstrate increased coordination across agencies and organizations; improve delivery of landowner technical assistance; and target outreach to private lands adjacent, or in close proximity to, established and/or protected bottomland hardwood and wetland habitats. Special emphasis will be placed on projects that include outreach to, and enhancing participation of, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, limited resource farmers or ranchers, Tribes and veteran farmers and ranchers. 
    • ​​​Increase outreach success: Support increased landowner outreach and technical assistance. Proposals should describe the current technical assistance capacity within the project’s geographic area and explain plans for prioritizing, targeting and leveraging additional capacity to achieve specific conservation outcomes for on-the-ground acreage and landowner engagement. This should include how available tools and resources (e.g. NRCS ACEP-WRE, EQIP and other federal and state financial assistance programs) will be utilized and how the increased technical assistance capacity will be coordinated among existing providers. Strategies may include:
      • ​​​​Hiring additional staff or contractors, based on demonstrated need.
      • Developing landscape-based partnerships to implement innovative methods to expand on-the-ground restoration and protection activities on private lands, such as utilizing social marketing and preferences data to identify and better understand landowner motivations and barriers to sustainable forest management.
      • Targeting outreach to landowners and working with NRCS and other partners to prioritize, plan and deliver NRCS financial assistance, including WRP/ACEP-WRE, and other stewardship programs to improve habitat and support at-risk species, including implementation of new and existing NRCS financial assistance contracts. 
    • ​Advance new market-based solutions or incentives:  Pilot innovative, market-based solutions or incentives that stimulate landowner participation in bottomland forest and wetland restoration, enhancement, and protection practices. Examples of strategies include coupling new incentive payments funded through the Fund with existing financial assistance programs and providing smaller incentives in cases where cost-share programs are oversubscribed. Projects should effectively align with other existing private landowner initiatives or programs, such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program and USDA’s Working Lands for Wildlife, as appropriate.
    • Increase participation in third-party forest certification: Increase participation in third-party forest certification programs to encourage sustainable forest management practices for bottomland hardwood forests and associated wildlife.
  5. ​Protect Bottomland Forest and Wetland Habitats: Funding is available for capacity and transaction costs (boundary surveys, appraisals, legal feeds, etc.) to facilitate targeted conservation easement projects that protect existing, high quality bottomland hardwood habitat, or key sites targeted for bottomland hardwood restoration and/or enhancement that are part of a broader restoration proposal. Requests should be for transaction costs, such as surveys, appraisal, environmental report, etc., and should not exceed 10% of the total proposal request. In limited instances, high leverage projects may be considered for acquisition costs. Please contact NFWF program staff to discuss specific land conservation projects.

PROJECT METRICS AND OUTCOMES

To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure greater consistency of project data provided by multiple grants, the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund has a list of metrics in Easygrants for grantees to choose from for reporting. We ask that you select only the most relevant metrics from this list for your project (all possible program metrics are shown in the table below). If you do not believe an applicable metric has been provided, please contact Jon Scott (jonathan.scott@nfwf.org) to discuss acceptable alternatives.

​Project Activit​y ​Recommended Metric (as liste​d in ​Easygrants) Additional Guidance​
​Establishment of new acres of bottomland hardwood forest. ​Habitat Restoration - LMAV –Land, wetland restoration - Acres restored ​Enter the total acres of bottomland hardwood forest that will be established during the grant period of performance, or that will be established after the grant period of performance, as part of restoration associated with a WRE/WREP easement.  
​Management/enhancement of existing bottomland hardwood habitat. ​Habitat Management – LMAV – Bottomland Hardwoods - Improved management practices - Acres under improved management ​Enter the total number of acres that will be treated to improve or maintain bottomland hardwoods. This may include thinning, residual stocking, and invasive species treatments. 
​Acres of wetland forest and floodplain with restored hydrology. ​Habitat Restoration – LMAV – Acres with restored hydrology ​Enter the number of acres that will be with restored hydrology.
​Acres with BMPs to reduce nutrient or sediment loads ​Habitat Management – LMAV – Acres with BMPs ​Enter the number of acres of best management practices (BMPs) installed to reduce nutrient or sediment loads, and/or other pollutants. Practices that help regulate water temperature may also be included. Please provide details in the Notes section on how the proposed BMPs will improve water quality, and to the best of your ability, whether BMPs will address specific nutrient, sediment, and/or other pollutant loads, and/or help regulate water temperature.
​Acres of bottomland forest and wetland habitat protected with conservation easements. ​Habitat Conservation – LMAV - Conservation easements - Acres protected under easement ​Enter the number of acres protected under long-term easement (permanent or >30-yr).
​Number of private landowners enrolled in financial assistance or stewardship programs ​Capacity, Outreach, Incentives - LMAV - Outreach/ Education/ Technical Assistance - # people with changed behavior Enter the number of private landowners who have entered into new program contracts (including, but not limited to Farm Bill, state or other funding programs) to restore and/or enhance bottomland hardwood and wetland habitats.  ​

ELIGIBILITY

  • ​Eligible and Ineligible Entities
    • Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes, and educational institutions. 
    • Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, businesses, unincorporated individuals and international organizations. U.S. Federal agencies, businesses and unincorporated individuals are encouraged to partner with applicants, but are not eligible to submit an application.
  • ​Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds 
    • ​NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
    • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts. 

FUNDING AVAILABILITY AND MATCH

The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund anticipates awarding up to $3 million in grants in FY 2018. Grant awards are expected to range from $100,000 to $500,000, depending on the overall scale of the project. This program has one annual application cycle.

Project Period: Anticipated completion time for funded projects typically will be 24-36 months following finalization of a grant agreement. Significant progress with project implementation is expected to be achieved in year one, including interim deliverables. 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. 

Match Requirement: Projects should 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 competitive2.  Projects unable to provide a 1:1 non-federal match are eligible, but applicants must contact NFWF to discuss match waiver options prior to submitting a proposal. Applicants are encouraged to describe federal partner contributions as well in the proposal narrative, although those contributions will not count toward the minimum match requirement.

EVALUATION CRITERIA

All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Proposals will then be evaluated based on the extent to which they meet the following criteria.

Program Goals and Priorities – Project contributes to overall habitat and species conservation goals, and has specific, quantifiable performance metrics that will be tracked and measured to evaluate project success. Project addresses one or more of the program priorities.

Conservation Plan and Context – Describe how the project fits into and advances an existing conservation plan or strategy, such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan, State Wildlife Action Plans, and other plans that benefit bottomland hardwood forest and wetland habitats and associated wildlife species within the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Proposals also should highlight how these efforts will expand new or existing restoration and conservation initiatives to maximize large-scale ecosystem function. 

Technical Merit – Project is technically sound and feasible, and the proposal sets forth a clear, logical and achievable work plan and timeline. Project engages appropriate technical experts throughout project planning, design and implementation to ensure activities are technically-sound and feasible.

Partnership – An appropriate partnership exists to implement the project and the project is supported by a strong local partnership that leverages additional funds and will sustain it after the life of the grant. Identify proposed partners, if known (including potential or contemplated subawards to third party subrecipients of the applicant), the roles they will play in implementing the project, and how this project will build new or enhance existing partnerships. (Note: a project partner is any local community, non-profit organization, tribe, and/or local, state, and federal government agency that contributes to the project in a substantial way and is closely involved in the completion of the project.)

Transferability – Project has potential and plan to transfer lessons learned to other communities and/or to be integrated into government programs and policies.

Communication – Project includes a detailed plan to communicate information about the project to appropriate audiences.

Funding Need – Project establishes a clear need for the funds being requested, and demonstrates that activities would not move forward absent funding.

Monitoring – Project includes 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. 

Letters of Support – Letters documenting the support/contributions of project partners are strongly encouraged.

Long-term Sustainability – Project will be maintained to ensure 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 – Applicant has a proven track record of success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.

OTHER  

Budget – Costs are allowable, reasonable and budgeted in accordance with NFWF’s Budget Instructions cost categories.  Federally-funded projects must be in compliance with OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not necessarily constitute NFWF’s express written authorization for the applicant to procure such specific services noncompetitively. When procuring goods and services, NFWF recipients must follow documented procurement procedures which reflect applicable laws and regulations.  

Publicity and Acknowledgement of Support – Award recipients will be required to grant NFWF the right and authority to publicize the project and NFWF’s financial support for the grant in press releases, publications and other public communications. Recipients may also be asked by NFWF to provide high-resolution (minimum 300 dpi) photographs depicting the project.

Receiving Award Funds – Award payments are primarily reimbursable. Projects may request funds for reimbursement at any time after completing a signed agreement with NFWF. A request of an advance of funds must be due to an imminent need of expenditure and must detail how the funds will be used and provide justification and a timeline for expected disbursement of these funds.

Compliance Requirements – Projects selected may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act (state and federal), and National Historic Preservation Act.  Documentation of compliance with these regulations must be approved prior to initiating activities that disturb or alter habitat or other features of the project site(s). Applicants should budget time and resources to obtain the needed approvals. As may be applicable, successful applicants may be required to comply with additional Federal, state or local requirements and obtain all necessary permits and clearances.

Permits – 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 any Federal, state or local requirements. Where projects involve work in the waters of the United States, NFWF strongly encourages applicants to conduct a permit pre-application meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers prior to submitting their proposal. In some cases, if a permit pre-application meeting has not been completed, NFWF may require successful applicants to complete such a meeting prior to grant award.

Federal Funding – The availability of federal funds estimated in this solicitation is contingent upon the federal appropriations process. Funding decisions will be made based on level of funding and timing of when it is received by NFWF.

TIMELINE

Dates of activities are subject to change.  Please check the Program page of the NFWF website for the most current dates and information: Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund.

​​Applicant Webinar:
Wednesday, December 20 2017, 2:00pm EST
Proposal Due Date:
​Thursday, January 25 2018, 11:59pm ET
Review Period:
​February – April 2018
​​Awards Announced:
​May 2018

HOW TO APPLY

All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.

  1. ​Go to easygrants.nfwf.org to register in our Easygrants online system.  New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting the application (if you already are a registered user, use your existing login).  Enter your applicant information. 
  2. Once on your homepage, click the “Apply for Funding” button and select this RFP’s “Funding Opportunity” from the list of options.
  3. Follow the instructions in Easygrants to complete your application.  Once an application has been started, it may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission.

APPLICATION ASSISTANCE 

A PDF version of this RFP can be downloaded here.

A Tip Sheet is available for quick reference while you are working through your application. This document can be downloaded here.  

Additional information to support the application process can be accessed on NFWF’s Applicant Information webpage.

For more information or questions about this RFP, please contact: 

Jon Scott
Manager, Southern Regional Office
(202) 595-2609
jonathan.scott@nfwf.org

Lindsay Vacek
Coordinator, Southern Regional Office
202-857-0166
Lindsay.vacek@nfwf.org

For issues or assistance with our online Easygrants system, please contact:

Easygrants Helpdesk
Email: Easygrants@nfwf.org​
Voicemail: 202-595-2497
Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET, Monday-Friday.
Include: your name, proposal ID #, e-mail address, phone number, program you are applying to, and a description of the issue.​​


Resources to inform and guide bottomland forest management may be found on the Lower MS Valley Joint Venture website: http://www.lmvjv.org/pages/R&M/LMVJV_Literature.htm ​

Note t​hat landowner contributions being used as match for a Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund grant must be outside of the amount already written into any agency financial assistance contract as a financial assistance contribution.​

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