Outdoor Heritage Conservation Partners Grant Program - FY 2010
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
This program, managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), provided competitive matching grants of up to $400,000 to local, regional, state, and national organizations, including government. Grant activities include the enhancement, restoration, or protection of forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota. A 10% non-state cash or in-kind match will be required from all grantees, and must be identified at the time of application.
About the Issue
This grant program consists of two activity categories:
Category 1 - Restoration and Enhancement. For the purpose of this grant program, this work is defined as: Restore: action to bring a habitat back to a former state of sustaining fish, game or wildlife, with an ultimate goal of restoring habitat to a desired conservation condition. Enhance: action to increase the ability of habitat and related natural systems to sustain and improve fish, game or wildlife in an ecologically sound manner.
Projects funded under Category 1, Restoration and Enhancement, consists of activities that restore or enhance habitat for fish, game, or wildlife on lands permanently protected by conservation easement or public ownership. Specific activities can be found in LSOHC Habitat activity Definitions.
1. Proposed projects on public lands were approved by and coordinated with public land managers. Projects proposed for lands under permanent conservation easement were reviewed by public land managers. Proof of review or approval was submitted with the grant application.
2. Restoration and enhancement activities are considered permanent work and a conservation easement was required for private lands before work could begin. Funding for the easement/deed restriction and associated costs could be paid for with in-kind match or grant funds.
3. Grantees were responsible for all administrative requirements such as Historic Property Review, Wetland Conservation Act, Stormwater Permits, Natural Heritage Review, DNR Waters Permits, and others as appropriate. Costs for any reviews or permits were included in the grant application, either as in-kind match or requested from grant dollars. As specified in the grant agreement, grantees may, by letter, assign these duties and associated funds back to DNR, with DNR consent.
4. The Commissioner of Natural Resources approved all projects.
5. Vegetation and seed used in these projects are from ecotypes native to Minnesota, and preferably of the local ecotype, using a high diversity of species originating from as close to the restoration site as possible. Existing native prairies are protected from genetic contamination to the extent possible.
6. A restoration and management plan was prepared for all restorations, consistent with the highest quality conservation and ecological goals for the restoration site. The plans included: a. The proposed timetable for implementing the restoration, including i. site preparation, ii. establishment of diverse plant species, iii. maintenance, and iv. additional enhancement to establish the restoration; b. Identification of long-term maintenance and management needs of the restoration and how the maintenance, management, and enhancement would be financed; and c. the best available science to achieve the best restoration.
7. Grantees gave consideration to and mad timely written contact with the Minnesota Conservation Corps for consideration of possible use of their services to contract for restoration and enhancement services.
Category 2 - Land Protection
• Protect: action to maintain the ability of habitat and related natural systems to sustain fish, game or wildlife through acquisition of fee title or conservation easements. For the purpose of this grant program, this work is defined as:
Acquisitions funded under Category 2 – Land protection of wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife by acquiring land through fee title or permanent easement. Lands acquired in fee title are open to the public for hunting and fishing during open seasons. Easements included stewardship provisions to perpetually monitor and enforce the conditions of the easements.
1. The Commissioner of Natural Resources agreed to each proposed acquisition of land or interest in land. For fee acquisition, the final title holder and land manager were specified. Lands that were conveyed to a public agency were donated.
2. For permanent easements, the following information was provided: a. What organization monitors the easement; b. Who the easement reverts to in the event the primary easement holder ceases to exist; c. What easement monitoring standards are used; d. Amount, funding source, and holder of the stewardship endowment dedicated to the easement; and e. Any restrictions, allowed structures, allowed activities, and reserved rights.
3. A restoration and management plan was prepared for all newly acquired lands as described in Category 1.6 above.
4. All acquisition selection processes and related transactions costs for all parties involved in the acquisition were reported to the LSOHC.
5. A Notice of Funding Restriction was recorded for each acquisition.
6. An analysis of future operations and maintenance costs for any acquired lands was provided to the LSOHC, commissioner of finance, and appropriate public agency.
7. The grantee submitted an annual report on the status of property acquired with grant funds to the LSOHC by December 1 each year.
Grantees acquiring land that was conveyed to DNR were required to follow DNR’s Third Party Land Acquisition Procedures. All appraisals were done to USPAP standards. All land surveys were done to meet DNR’s General Requirements for Land Surveys. Lands that were conveyed to a public agency for long-term management were brought up to the agency’s minimum operating standards before being conveyed.
General Program Requirements: all grants were closed by June 30, 2013, at which time all projects were completed and final products delivered. All grant projects conformed to the terms set out in the 2009 MN Session Law Chapter 172, and addressed the priorities in the Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan, and Tomorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare. In implementing this program the DNR complied with the Office of Grants Management policies.
Grantee Match: The match requirement was 10% in nonstate cash or in-kind work, which included verifiable equipment use, donation of materials, and donation of labor. The amount and source of the match was identified at the time of application. Proof of all required and pledged grantee match was provided before the final payment was made.
Grant Process: A Request for Proposal (RFP) was posted on the DNR and LSOHC websites in August 2009. The RFP contained grant program, application criteria, application and proposal requirements, state agency contacts and grant reporting requirements. The RFP and all grant agreements incorporated appropriate principles and criteria from the 2009 LSOHC Strategic Plan.
Applications were accepted electronically, with grants selected for funding in December, 2009, and March, 2010. Maps and aerial photos showing the location of proposed projects were required, and included the name of the public land unit or private landowner, county, legal description, acres affected, and on-site and adjacent habitat types.
DNR Grants Program staff worked with grant applicants to ensure applications were complete, compiled all grant applications, and entered applications into a database. A Technical Guidance Committee selected by the Commissioner of Natural Resources ranked applications based on criteria established by the LSOHC and MN State Legislature and recommended projects and funding levels. This committee included representatives from DNR, BWSR, the University of MN, the USFWS, and other appropriate members. The Commissioner made the final decision on projects funded and funding levels.
Ranking Criteria Used:
1. Amount of habitat restored, enhanced, or protected
2. Local support
3. Degree of collaboration
5. Multiple benefits
6. Habitat benefits provided
7. Consistency with sound conservation science
8. Adjacency to protected lands
9. Full funding of the project
10. Supplementing existing funding
11. Public access for hunting and fishing during the open season
13. Use of native plant materials
Every effort was made to evenly distribute the selected grants by geographic location, activity, and funding level. Once grant applications were selected, DNR Grants Program staff worked with grantees to ensure financial reviews, grant agreements, and any other necessary paperwork was completed. Work did not begin until the grant was executed.
Grant payments were administered on a reimbursement basis unless otherwise provided in the grant agreement. Periodic payments were made upon receiving documentation that the deliverable items articulated in the approved accomplishment plan had been achieved, including partial achievements as evidenced by approved progress reports. Capital equipment expenditures were not allowed.
No less than 15 percent of the amount of each grant must was held back from reimbursement until the grant recipient had completed a grant accomplishment report in the form prescribed by and satisfactory to the LSOHC.
Project reviews were completed on an annual basis by CPL staff. Grantees submitted annual accomplishment reports in the form determined by the LSOHC by September 1 of each year. These reports were based on work completed during the previous fiscal year. Reports accounted for the use of grant and match funds, and outcomes in measures of wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat restored, enhanced, and protected. The report included an evaluation of these results. A map and aerial photo showing the location of the project and including the name of the public land unit or private landowner, county, legal description, and acreage was included.
MN FISH AND WILDLIFE FOUNDATION REPORT:
This report considered the feasibility, process, and timeline for creation of a Minnesota fish and wildlife foundation, to be modeled after the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and on the possibility of allowing for the administration by this entity of the conservation partners grant program. The legislative guide created in this act considered whether this program should be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the commissioner of natural resources, or some neutral third party.