The USDA will partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to improve water quality, wildlife habitat and soil productivity. The partnership brings together $10 million of NRCS funding with an additional $10 million or more in private funds through NFWF to increase technical assistance in priority areas.
"We are excited about this partnership," said Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White. "This effort is an innovative approach for stretching the public dollar further, engaging the private sector to tackle shared priorities, and employing local conservation professionals to help wildlife and sustain agriculture."
NFWF is managing the Conservation Partners effort as competitive grants to increase “boots on the ground” in priority areas. Non-federal specialists such as biologists, ecologists, foresters and rangeland specialists will work with NRCS field offices to provide technical assistance to participating farmers, ranchers and other landowners and managers.
"Together, we will develop land management plans and projects that maximize benefits for fish and wildlife species," said NFWF executive director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. "Conservation professionals will assist landowners with wildlife-centered conservation planning and funding options."
The first of several funding opportunities for the Conservation Partners grants is underway and pre-proposals are due by March 13, 2012. Grant awards to selected proposals will range from $50,000 to $250,000. Priority for funding will be directed to proposals that target species and ecosystems of shared interest between NFWF and NRCS. Some of the funds for the effort are targeted to provide technical assistance on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land.
This first funding round prioritizes the Northeast forests, Upper Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast and Prairie Pothole regions. A second round of funding is scheduled for this spring to focus on the Lesser Prairie Chicken, the Bay Delta and other priority habitat areas. The Conservation Partners effort is also helping to accelerate conservation initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and Long Leaf Pine habitats.
Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations, educational institutions, tribal governments, and state or local units of governments. Individuals, federal agencies and for-profit firms are not eligible for NFWF Conservation Partners grants. For more information, visit NFWF's website.