Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund 2019 Request for Proposals

***The proposal deadline has been extended to Thursday, February 21st by 11:59 PM EST***

Applicant Webinar [Register here]: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 2:00 PM EST
Full Proposal Due Date:  Thursday, February 21, 2019 by 11:59 PM EST


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals within the Cumberland Plateau region that will help accelerate the restoration and enhancement of critical forest and freshwater habitats and associated wildlife species in the region. Funding is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, American Forest Foundation’s Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Partnership, and Altria Group. Up to $1 million is expected to be available for grants this funding cycle.


Projects within the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia are eligible, with preference given to projects located within the identified focal areas (View Interactive Map). Focal areas were selected by analyzing upland and riparian forest and freshwater systems, and represent locations with the greatest potential for restoration and benefit to priority species. These focus areas are based on resource mapping, interviews with the practitioners in the field, and capacity to carry out the work.

In addition to the focal areas described above, the following Alabama counties are NRCS priorities for technical assistance and partnership coordination to restore, enhance and protect riparian forest buffers on private lands: Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Fayette, Franklin, Jackson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, Pickens, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston.

Note: Funding for habitat restoration projects benefitting freshwater species in the Locust Fork and Middle Coosa watersheds is available through the Southeast Aquatics Fund (2019 RFP to be posted in late Spring 2019):

Cumberland Plateau 2019 RFP Map

The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund is guided primarily by three strategic drivers. Applicants should align their proposals with the strategies and objectives lined out within at least one of these guiding documents:

  1. Supporting the implementation of the Forestland Stewards Partnership Business Plan, which includes strategic priorities and goals to enhance forest ecosystems for the benefit of wildlife species and freshwater systems, while promoting and supporting working forests.
  2. Supporting the implementation of the Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan, developed by the Shortleaf Pine Initiative, for those portions of the historical shortleaf pine range that fall within the Fund’s geographic focal areas. The Fund is primarily focused on accelerating shortleaf pine1 ecosystem restoration (including shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak forests) and restoring freshwater habitat.
  3. Supporting restoration and enhancement of aquatic habitat and species within high priority watersheds identified through the Southeastern Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, which was completed in 2016 by the University of Georgia River Basin Center and Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. This science-based, systematic assessment identified watersheds critical to southeast aquatic conservation based on the richness, endemism, and imperilment of freshwater fish, mussel, and crayfish species.

Preference will be given to projects that effectively implement one or more of the strategies below to improve shortleaf pine, riparian forest and/or in-stream habitats and populations of associated wildlife species, such as bobwhite quail, prairie warbler, as well as fish, amphibians and other aquatic species:

  1. Establishing Shortleaf Pine: NFWF will invest in projects that create new shortleaf pine habitat, including site preparation and planting on public and private lands. Priority will be given to projects in areas adjacent or in close proximity to existing shortleaf stands under management, known habitat for associated threatened, endangered or at-risk species, and/or on protected lands likely to receive long-term management. Projects should:
    • ​​Describe all necessary site preparation for planting and summarize plans to promote long-term sustainability and maintenance of restored forests (e.g., mechanical and/or chemical treatments, prescribed burning, etc.)

  2. ​Enhancing and Maintaining Existing Shortleaf Pine Ecosystems: NFWF will invest in projects that maintain, expand, and promote the appropriate management of existing shortleaf pine forest systems on public and private lands, with emphasis on shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak savanna ecosystems, through the use of prescribed fire and other management treatments, including, but not limited to the following:
    • ​​Increase prescribed fire, including capacity, coordination and collaboration through fire teams, prescribed burn associations, or other appropriate strategies.
    • Provide technical assistance, training and/or other incentives to increase prescribed burning on private lands, including, but not limited to assisting USDA Area Office staff in writing burn plans and implementing financial assistance contracts through NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other programs.
    • Increase prescribed burning and management on public lands.
    • Pursue innovations and address specific barriers or roadblocks to prescribed burning, including strategies that may be transferred across the shortleaf pine range.
​​Where prescribed fire is not sufficient or practical for achieving shortleaf ecosystem restoration, the following additional strategies may be considered. Applicants must demonstrate how these strategies contribute towards long-term sustainable shortleaf ecosystem management, including how they will enable future prescribed burning as a management practice.
  • Planting native understory species, where appropriate, to improve wildlife habitat and support the application of prescribed fire.
  • Thinning, invasive species removal and other alternative treatments.
  • Overstory treatments in mixed stands with a minor manageable component of shortleaf pine with a goal of moving these stands to a shortleaf-dominant condition.

  1. Restoring and Enhancing Riparian Forests and Watersheds to Support Aquatic Species: NFWF will invest in projects that restore riparian forests, implement best management practices along riparian corridors and/or in-stream restoration to improve watershed health, enhance freshwater habitat, and support at-risk aquatic species. Applicants seeking support for riparian or in-stream restoration projects should reference the Southeast Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for additional information on priority watersheds within the Cumberland Plateau program boundary. A variety of practices are eligible including, but not limited to:
    • ​Planting native riparian forest species.
    • Thinning and other forest management practices that will improve wildlife habitat.
    • Implementing agricultural best management practices, including, but not limited to installing fencing and alternative watering systems to exclude livestock from streams.
    • Controlling invasive species, such as hemlock woolly adelgid, which threaten riparian forest health.
    • Removing or retrofitting stream barriers (low-head dams) and stream crossings (culverts, concrete fords), and/or other in-stream restoration practices to improve aquatic habitat within focal watersheds (View Map). Note: Preference will be given to proposals that remove or retrofit high priority barriers or crossings within watersheds where barrier/crossing surveys and/or assessments are being developed or have been completed with an emphasis on lower cost/high gain methods in locations known to fragment habitat for priority species.

  2. ​Expanding and Coordinating Technical Assistance and Outreach: NFWF will invest in projects that implement targeted outreach and assistance to increase private landowners engaged in shortleaf pine, riparian forest, and/or in-stream habitat stewardship practices. Proposals must estimate the amount of acres and/or miles to be restored or enhanced as a result of proposed technical assistance and outreach activities. Areas of interest include:
    • ​​Increasing outreach and technical assistance delivery success: Support increased landowner outreach and technical assistance. Proposals should describe the current technical assistance capacity and explain plans for prioritizing, targeting and leveraging additional capacity. This should include how existing 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, including capacity to assist NRCS with developing forest management and burn plans and implementation of existing and new financial assistance contracts, including NRCS initiatives such as Working Land for Wildlife’s Eastern hellbender project within NRCS priority watersheds.
      • 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, implementation of agricultural best management practices, and/or riparian or in-stream habitat restoration.
      • Targeting outreach to landowners and working with NRCS and other partners to prioritize, plan and deliver financial assistance, such as EQIP, Working Lands for Wildlife and other programs to improve habitat and support at-risk species.
    • ​Advancing new market-based and/or incentive programs: Pilot innovative, market-based solutions and incentive programs that stimulate landowner participation in shortleaf pine ecosystem recovery, agricultural best management practices, riparian forest restoration, and/or in-stream habitat restoration efforts to promote the achievement of shortleaf pine ecosystem, riparian forest, and/or in-stream ideal habitat conditions. Projects should effectively align with other existing private landowner initiatives or programs, such as US Fish & Wildlife Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program and USDA’s Working Lands for Wildlife, as appropriate.
    • Increasing participation in third-party forest certification: Increase participation in third-party forest certification programs to encourage sustainable forest management practices for shortleaf pine ecosystem and associated wildlife.

  3. ​Conservation Easements: Limited funding is available to facilitate targeted conservation easement projects that protect existing, high quality shortleaf pine and/or riparian forest habitat, or key sites targeted for shortleaf pine ecosystem and/or riparian forest restoration that are part of larger forest restoration proposals. Preference will be given to projects that protect working forests. Requests for conservation easement funding should not exceed 20% of the total proposal request and should be for transaction costs, such as surveys, appraisal, environmental report, etc. In limited instances, highly leveraged projects will be considered for acquisition costs. Please contact Jon Scott ( to discuss specific land conservation projects. 


The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund seeks to support the following conservation outcomes as outlined in the Forestland Stewards Partnership Business Plan. Projecting the goals of the 2013-2017 business plan, the following goals have been established for 2019. A new business plan is scheduled for development in 2020.
  • Increasing populations of northern bobwhite quail and prairie warbler, as well as fish, amphibians and other aquatic species, which are representative of healthy, sustainable shortleaf savanna forests and/or freshwater systems.
  • Establishing 1,000 acres of shortleaf pine forest.
  • Improving management of 10,000 acres of existing shortleaf pine habitat.
  • Restoring or enhancing 500 acres of riparian forest for wildlife habitat and water quality.
  • Protecting 500 acres of working forests and/or riparian forests through voluntary conservation easements.
  • Improving management of 15 miles of stream and associated stream habitat.
  • Engaging more than 500 private landowners in shortleaf pine and riparian forest outreach, training and technical assistance activities that contribute to the objectives described above.
To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure greater consistency of project data provided by multiple grants, the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund has a list of metrics (Table 1) in Easygrants for grantees to choose from for reporting. We ask that applicants select only the most relevant metrics from this list for their 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 ( to discuss acceptable alternatives.
Table 1: Project Metrics
​Project Activity Recommended Metric
(as listed in Easygrants)
Additional Guidance​​
​​​​Strategy 1. Establishing Shortleaf Pine
​Establishment of new acres of shortleaf pine on private lands ​CPF – Private – Land restoration - Acres restored ​Enter the total acres of shortleaf pine planted on

private lands.

​Establishment of new acres of shortleaf pine on public lands ​CPF – Public – Land restoration - Acres restored ​Enter the total acres of shortleaf pine planted on public lands.
Strategy 2. Enhancing and Maintaining Existing Shortleaf Pine Ecosystems
​Management or enhancement of existing shortleaf on private lands ​CPF – Private – Improved management practices - Acres under improved management ​Enter the total acres treated to improve or maintain existing shortleaf pine habitat on private lands. This includes prescribed burning, over-story treatments, mid-story treatments, understory establishment, and invasive species treatments. Acres receiving multiple treatments should only be counted once.
​Management or enhancement of existing shortleaf on public lands ​CPF – Public – Improved management practices - Acres under improved management ​Enter the total acres treated to improve or maintain existing shortleaf pine habitat on public lands. This includes prescribed burning, over-story treatments, mid-story treatments, understory establishment, and invasive species treatments. Acres receiving multiple treatments should only be counted once.
​Prescribed burning of existing shortleaf on private lands ​CPF – Private – best management practice implementation for prescribed burns - Acres ​Enter the total acres of existing shortleaf pine habitat treated with prescribed fire on private lands.
​Prescribed burning of existing shortleaf on public lands ​CPF – Public – best management practice implementation for prescribed burns - Acres ​Enter the total acres of existing shortleaf pine habitat treated with prescribed fire on public lands.
​​​​Strategy 3. Restoring & Enhancing Riparian Forests & Watersheds to Support At-Risk Aquatic Species
​Establishment and/or enhancement of riparian forest on private lands ​CPF – Private – Riparian restoration – Acres restored ​Enter the total acres of riparian forest planted or existing forest enhanced (thinning, non-native invasives treated, etc.) on private lands.​
​Establishment and/or enhancement of riparian forest on public lands ​CPF – Public – Riparian restoration – Acres restored ​Enter the total acres of riparian forest planted or existing forest enhanced (thinning, non-native invasives treated, etc.) on public lands.
​Miles of stream under improved management on private lands  ​CPF – Private – Improved Management Practices – Miles of improved management ​Enter the total miles of stream under improved management on private lands. Examples of eligible strategies include fencing installed to exclude livestock from streams or rivers, removal or retrofit of stream barriers, establishing or enhancing riparian forest, etc.​
​Miles of stream under improved management on public lands ​CPF – Public – Improved Management Practices – Miles of improved management ​Enter the total miles of stream under improved management on public lands. Examples of eligible strategies include removal or retrofit of stream barriers, establishing or enhancing riparian forest, etc.​
​Strategy 4. Expanding and Coordinating Technical Assistance and Outreach​
​ # landowners reached through outreach and technical assistance ​CPF – Outreach/Education/Technical Assistance - # individuals reached by outreach, training, or technical assistance activities ​Enter the number of private landowners reached through technical assistance and outreach. This metric should only track landowners reached and not include members of the general public engaged through community outreach and education events.
​# landowners taking action on their lands  ​CPF – Outreach/ Education/Technical Assistance - # people with changed behavior ​Enter the number of private landowners who have implemented restoration actions or entered into new incentive program contracts (including, but not limited to Farm Bill, state or other funding programs) focusing on shortleaf pine, riparian buffer, and/or in-stream habitat restoration and management.
​​​Strategy 5. Conservation Easements
​Protection of shortleaf pine and/or riparian forest ​CPF – Conservation easements – Acres protected under easement ​The total acres of shortleaf pine and/or riparian forest placed under conservation easement.​


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.


The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund anticipates awarding up to $1 million in grants in 2019. Grant awards will range from $50,000 to $250,000. This program has one annual application cycle and awards approximately 6-8 grants per year.

Project Period: Anticipated completion time for funded projects typically will be 24 months following finalization of a grant agreement. Significant project deliverables and outcomes are expected to be achieved in year one. 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 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.2 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.

Work on Public Lands: Work performed on Federal, state, and local public lands are eligible across the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund geography. Projects that focus on public lands are strongly encouraged to include work on private lands as part of the broader project scope. Please contact Jon Scott at to discuss potential work on public lands prior to submitting an application.


 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 the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund’s overall acreage, habitat and species 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 outlined in the Request for Proposals.

Conservation Plan and Context – Describe how the project advances the Forestland Stewards Partnership Business Plan. Proposals also should highlight how efforts will expand new or existing restoration and conservation initiatives, such as the Shortleaf Pine Initiative and Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan, and the Southeast Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation Strategy to maximize large-scale ecosystem function.

Other Important Species Benefits – In addition to meeting key habitat needs for shortleaf pine/shortleaf-oak savanna ecosystem indicator species (bobwhite quail and prairie warbler), describe any significant benefits to other at-risk, threatened or endangered woodland/savanna dependent species, as well as aquatic species, referencing any species recovery plans or other conservation plans outlining species goals as appropriate. Preference will be given to projects that include monitoring plans to track species outcomes.

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, and design and implementation. Applications involving private lands should be shared with the appropriate NRCS State Conservationist for input and guidance before submission (View NRCS State Conservationist contacts​).

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 completing the project.)

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.

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 of support from the applicable State Forestry office(s), highlighting how the proposed project is being coordinated with their office must be submitted for projects including state and private lands (View state forest agency contacts).
  • Letter from the appropriate NRCS State Conservationist acknowledging how the proposed project is being coordinated with their office must be submitted for projects including private lands (View NRCS State Conservationist contacts​).
  • Letters documenting the support/contributions of all other project partners are strongly encouraged.

Transferability – Project has potential and a plan to transfer lessons learned to other communities and partners, 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.

Past Success – Applicant has a proven track record of success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.


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.

Matching Contributions – Matching Contributions consist of cash, contributed goods and services, volunteer hours, and/or property raised and spent for the Project during the Period of Performance. Larger match ratios and matching fund contributions from a diversity of partners are encouraged and will be more competitive during application review.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not 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.


Dates of activities are subject to change.  Please check the Program page of the NFWF website for the most current dates and information (Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund).
  • Applicant Webinar: Wednesday, January 9, 2019, 2:00pm Eastern Standard Time
  • Full Proposal Due Date: Thursday, February 21, 2019, 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time
  • Review Period:  February 2019 – June 2019
  • Awards Announced: July 2019


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


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 the NFWF website’s Applicant Information page.

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

Jon Scott
Program Director, Southern Forests
(202) 595-2609

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

Easygrants Helpdesk
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 to which you are applying, and a description of the issue.

1For the purposes of the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund, shortleaf pine may include both shortleaf pine and mixed shortleaf-oak forests, where shortleaf pine makes up a substantial component of the forest stand.​

2Note that landowner contributions being used as match for a Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund grant must be outside of the amount already written into any agency financial assistance contract as a cost-share contribution.