Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund RFP 2017

Proposal Due Date: 11:59pm (EST), Thursday February 16, 2017


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals within the Cumberland Plateau 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, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Initiative, Altria Group and the American Forest Foundation's Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Partnership. NFWF anticipates that approximately $625,000 - $850,000 will be available for grants this funding cycle.


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


The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund supports the implementation of the Business Plan for the Forestland Stewards Initiative, 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. The Fund also seeks to support the implementation of the Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan, developed by the Shortleaf Pine Initiative, for those portions of the historical shortleaf range that fall within the Fund's geographic focal areas. The Fund is primarily focused on accelerating shortleaf pine [1] ecosystem restoration (including shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak forests) and restoring freshwater habitat. The Fund also seeks to support technical assistance and implementation of best management practices on agricultural lands, including a focus on working with tobacco growers in Kentucky.  

Preference will be given to projects that effectively implement one or more of the following strategies: 

1. Establishing Shortleaf Pine: NFWF will invest in projects that create new shortleaf habitat. This includes site preparation and planting of shortleaf pine on public and private lands. Preference will be given to projects that:
  • Establish shortleaf pine in areas adjacent or in close proximity to existing shortleaf pine forests receiving appropriate management treatment at regular intervals, or on existing protected lands likely to receive long-term management, as indicated by a forest management plan.
  • Include all necessary site prep and plans for management (e.g., mechanical and/or chemical treatments, prescribed burning, etc.) at appropriate intervals to promote long-term sustainability.

2. Enhancing and Maintaing 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 supplemental management treatments, including, but not limited to the following strategies:

  • Prescribed fire teams or other strategies that will increase prescribed fire capacity and promote coordination and collaboration across organizations and agencies to grow the number of acres under prescribed fire on an annual basis.
  • Prescribed fire training to increase prescribed burning on private lands.
  • Providing technical assistance and additional landowner incentives to increase the number of prescribed fire acres and the frequency of prescribed fire on private lands.
  • Identifying and addressing specific barriers or roadblocks (i.e., insurance, liability, community issues, etc.) to fire introduction that may exist in a specific geography. Innovative strategies that test models, such as prescribed burn associations, with the potential of being transferred across the shortleaf range are encouraged.
Where prescribed fire is not sufficient or practical for achieving shortleaf ecosystem restoration, the following additional strategies may be considered:
  • Improve and maintain existing shortleaf pine ecosystems through thinning, invasive species control, and mechanical or chemical treatments, as appropriate. 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, using most cost-efficient available strategies.
3. Restoring and Enhancing Riparian Forests and Watersheds: 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. Limited funds are also available to support implementation of agricultural best management practices on private lands in Kentucky [2], including no-till practices with tobacco growers. 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, while protecting water quality.
  • Implementing agricultural best management practices, including, but not limited to installing fencing and alternative watering systems to exclude livestock from streams and implementation of no-till practices with tobacco [3] growers.
  • 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.

4. Expanding and Coordinating Technical Assistance and Outreach: Projects implementing targeted outreach and assistance to increase private landowners engaged in shortleaf pine, riparian forest, and/or in-stream habitat stewardship practices will be considered. Projects providing technical assistance to tobacco growers in Kentucky to implement agricultural best management practices to improve and protect water quality will also be considered. 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. Preference will be given to projects that increase coordination across agencies and  organizations and improve delivery of landowner technical assistance for shortleaf pine and/or riparian forest recovery efforts, and/or in-stream habitat improvements. Preference will also be given to projects that target outreach to private lands adjacent or in close proximity to established shortleaf pine stands and/or riparian forests receiving appropriate management treatments at regular intervals, and/or within watersheds and along streams that are a priority for in-stream habitat improvement. Priority approaches include:

Increasing 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. state and federal cost-share 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, 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 NRCS financial assistance and other stewardship 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; extend contract periods to promote the sustainability of shortleaf pine and/or riparian forest restoration activities; and/or, enhance restoration and maintenance activities on the land to promote the achievement of shortleaf pine ecosystem and/or riparian forest ideal habitat conditions. Strategies may include coupling new incentive payments funded through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund with existing cost-share programs (ex. EQIP); providing smaller incentives in cases where cost-share programs are oversubscribed; or other measures.

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.

​5. ​Conservation Easements: Limited funding is available to facilitate targeted conservation easement projects that protect existing, high quality shortleaf pine habitat and/or riparian forest, 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 priority sites adjacent to, or near, proposed shortleaf pine and/or riparian forest restoration sites; are embedded within, or adjacent to, public or other permanently protected lands; and/or will 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. Proposals that include requests for transaction costs exceeding 20% of the total proposal request will be considered on a case-by-case basis for applications that can clearly demonstrate a need for additional funding. For applicants considering a proposal with greater than 20% for transaction costs, please contact Jon Scott at to discuss prior to submitting an application.


The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund seeks to support the following conservation outcomes as outlined in the Business Plan for the Forestland Stewards Initiative. Specific five-year goals (2013-2017), detailed in the business plan, include:

  • Restore 3,500 acres of shortleaf pine forest.

  • Improve management of 50,000 acres of shortleaf pine and other upland woodland/savanna forest habitat.

  • Restore/enhance 2,000 acres of riparian forest for wildlife habitat and water quality.

  • Protect 1,000 acres of working forests and/or riparian forests through voluntary conservation easements.

  • Improve management of 1,000 miles of stream and associated stream habitat.

  • Increase populations of northern bobwhite quail and prairie warbler, as well as fish, amphibians and other aquatic species, which are representative of healthy, sustainable woodland/savanna forests and freshwater systems.

  • Engage more than 1,000 private landowners in shortleaf pine and riparian forest outreach, training and technical assistance activities that contribute to the restoration, enhancement and wildlife objectives described above, and support working forests by demonstrating their environmental and socioeconomic benefits.

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 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.


  • Eligible and Ineligible Entities 

  • Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes and educational institutions. U.S. Federal agencies, businesses and unincorporated individuals are encouraged to partner with applicants, but are not eligible to submit an application.

  • Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, businesses, unincorporated individuals and international organizations.  

  • 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 will award approximately $625,000 - $850,000 in grants in 2017. Grant awards will range from $50,000 to $200,000, depending on the overall scale of the project. This program has one annual application cycle and awards approximately 4-6 grants per year.

Project Period: Anticipated completion time for funded projects typically will be 24 months following finalization of a grant agreement. Projects may be a discrete part of a longer-term project, provided there are definable outcomes for the proposed phase of the overall effort. The project narrative must include a clear timetable or schedule for project completion. 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 [4]. Applicants are encouraged to describe federal partner contributions as well in the proposal narrative, although those contributions may not count toward the minimum match. 

Work on Public Lands: Work performed on Federal, state, and local public lands are eligible across the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund geography. Projects that include federal lands also must include work on private lands as part of the broader project scope. Please contact Jon Scott at to discuss 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. 

Required Criteria: 

Program Goals and Priorities Project contributes to the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund’s overall acreage 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 Proposal. 

Conservation Plan and Context – Describe how the project advances the Business Plan for Forestland Stewards Initiative. 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, to maximize large-scale ecosystem function.

Critical 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 plans for wildlife population surveys.

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. We recommend that applications involving private lands be shared with the appropriate NRCS State Conservationist for input and guidance before submission (View NRCS State Conservationist contacts). 

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

Other Criteria

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.)

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, as well as support necessary capacity. On private lands, demonstrate a commitment to keep lands in shortleaf pine savanna or riparian forest over the long-term, through past history of management, forest management plans outlining long-term management strategies, existing or pending easements, or other voluntary commitments such as US Fish and Wildlife Service Candidate Conservation Agreements, etc. 

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 all other project partners are strongly encouraged. 

Transferability Project has potential and plans 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.
Past Success Demonstrate a proven track record of applicant and partnership success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.


General: Applicants will be required to indicate the status of all permits required to comply with federal, state or local requirements. 

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. 

Federal Funding Requirements – Projects selected to receive Federal funding may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, 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. Federally-funded projects must operate in compliance with the OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable to the applicant. 

Federal Funding Requirements: Projects selected to receive Federal funding may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, 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.  Federally-funded projects must operate in compliance with the OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable to the applicant. 

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. 


Dates of activities are subject to change. Please check the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund Program page for the most current dates and information.

  • Applicant Webinar: Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 2:00pm Eastern - Registration required
  • Full Proposal Due Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017 by 11:59pm Eastern
  • Review Period: February 2017 – May 2017
  • Awards Announced: June or July 2017 


All application materials must be submitted online through NFWF'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 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
Manager, Southern Regional Office


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

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.


[1] For 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.

[2] Applicants interested in submitting a proposal for no-till projects in Kentucky should contant Jon Scott to discuss -

[3] Implementation of no-till with tobacco growers is limited to landowners/producers in Kentucky.

[4] Note 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.