National Fish and Wildlife Foundation invites proposals for Conservation Partners Program

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation manages the Conservation Partners Program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and General Mills. The program awards competitive grants aimed at accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture principles and conservation practices on private working lands in priority geographic areas. Grant recipients will provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to help them develop management plans, design and implement best practices, participate in Farm Bill programs, and share their experiences and lessons learned. This work provides enhanced wildlife habitat, soil health, water conservation and quality, and carbon storage while offering important social and economic benefits to agricultural producers.

Competitive projects will increase participation in Farm Bill programs as one way to advance regenerative agriculture principles, such as minimizing chronic disturbances to the soil and biological community, maximizing diversity of plants and animals, keeping the soil covered, always keeping a living root in the ground, and efficiently managing water resources. Grant recipients will apply these principles in support of producers who are developing and advancing holistic approaches that simultaneously improve the performance of agricultural operations and ecosystem functions.

The Conservation Partners Program encourages projects that foster participation by diverse local community members and community-based organizations. Some of the ways projects can ensure alignment among individual producer objectives, broader community priorities, and desired conservation outcomes include incorporating local input into project design, integrating traditional ecological knowledge, and working collaboratively with diverse partners toward optimal solutions. Approximately $6.7 million in grant funding is available under this funding opportunity, and typical grant awards will range from $100,000 to $600,000, with an estimated average grant size of approximately $250,000. Program priority categories include:

Grazing management: Promote plant growth above and below ground, improve wildlife habitat, and maximize soil carbon by establishing native grasses, optimizing stocking rates, livestock rotations, utilization rates, and plant rest and recovery. 

Crop management: Improve water quality and maximize soil carbon by increasing adoption of cover crops, reduced tillage, diversified crop rotations, perennial cropping systems, nutrient management plans, precision agriculture, and other soil health practices. 

Irrigation improvement: Improve hydrology, in-stream flows, aquifer recharge, and flood/drought resilience by increasing the efficiency of on-farm irrigation practices and reducing agricultural runoff. 

Habitat enhancement: Enhance habitat values of working grasslands, field buffers, forests, wetlands, riparian zones, floodplains, and other adjacent areas through native plantings, removal of invasive species, beneficial mowing, prescribed burning, fencing, and other conservation practices.

This funding opportunity will provide grant funding for projects that align geographically with the following program priority categories: 

Prairie Pothole Region: Approximately $2.1 million will be available for the Prairie Pothole Region category. The geography includes the region of historic tallgrass, mixed-grass, and shortgrass prairie spanning portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Priority will be given to projects in western Minnesota and eastern North and South Dakota.

Upper Mississippi River Basin: Approximately $1.6 million will be available for the Upper Mississippi River Basin category. The geography includes the NRCS’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) states upstream of the Ohio River confluence with the Mississippi River. Priority will be given to projects focused within MRBI Focus Area Watersheds

Southern Great Plains: Approximately $1.2 million will be available for the Southern Great Plains category. The geography includes portions of Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

Pacific Salmon and Western Water: Approximately $800,000 will be available for the Pacific Salmon and Western Water category, which is focused on stream reaches in California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, where insufficient in-stream flows are identified as a key limiting factor for salmonid survival. Priority will be given to projects that support the delivery of the NRCS EQIP WaterSMART Initiative as a complement to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART program. 

Working Lands for Wildlife: Approximately $1 million will be available for the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) category. This category includes 22 national and state NRCS initiatives that span 48 states. More than 20 species serve as indicators of ecosystem health concerning those initiatives. They are used to focus conservation toward key practices and strategies that benefit species populations and agricultural operations.

For complete program guidelines and application instructions, see the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation website.Link to complete RFP

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