Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program, Phase 4
$4,990,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for a program to provide competitive, matching grants of up to $400,000 to local, regional, state, and national organizations for enhancing, restoring, or protecting forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota. Grants shall not be made for activities required to fulfill the duties of owners of lands subject to conservation easements. Grants shall not be made from = appropriations in this paragraph for projects that have a total project cost exceeding $575,000. $366,000 of this appropriation may be spent for personnel costs and other direct and necessary administrative costs. Grantees may acquire land or interests in land. Easements must be permanent. Land acquired in fee must be open to hunting and fishing during the open season unless otherwise provided by state law. The program shall require a match of at least ten percent from nonstate sources for all grants. The match may be cash or in-kind resources. For grant applications of $25,000 or less, the commissioner shall provide a separate, simplified application process. Subject to Minnesota Statutes, the commissioner of natural resources shall, when evaluating projects of equal value, give priority to organizations that have a history of receiving or charter to receive private contributions for local conservation or habitat projects. If acquiring land or a conservation easement, priority shall be given to projects associated with existing wildlife management areas under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8; scientific and natural areas under Minnesota Statutes, sections 84.033 and 86A.05, subdivision 5; and aquatic management areas under Minnesota Statutes, sections 86A.05, subdivision 14, and 97C.02. All restoration or enhancement projects must be on land permanently protected by a conservation easement or public ownership or in public waters as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 103G.005, subdivision 15. Priority shall be given to restoration and enhancement projects on public lands. Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 13, applies to grants awarded under this paragraph. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2016. No less than five percent of the amount of each grant must be held back from reimbursement until the grant recipient has completed a grant accomplishment report by the deadline and in the form prescribed by and satisfactory to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The commissioner shall provide notice of the grant program in the game and fish law summaries that are prepared under Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.051, subdivision 2.
Restored 4,933 acres, Protected 665 Acres, and Enhanced 44,797 acres for a total of 50,395 acres.
The Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program, managed by the Department of Natural Resources, provided 56 competitive matching grants to non-profit organizations and governments, appropriating all the available ML12 funds.
The Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program (CPL) is managed by the MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide competitive matching grants of up to $400,000 to local, regional, state, and national non-profit organizations, including governments. Grant activities include the enhancement, restoration, or protection of forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota. A 10% match from non-state sources is required for all grants.
CPL Program Staff solicited applications and worked with applicants to submit applications, oversaw the grant selection process, prepared and executed grant documents, reviewed expenditure documentation, made reimbursement payments, monitored grant work, assisted recipients with closing out their agreements, and prepared reports as required by LSOHC.
Applicants describe the location of the work (county and ecological subsection), activity type, and habitat in their application. They also describe how their actions will benefit habitat and fish, game and wildlife. For acquisition projects, applicants describe their parcel selection process. Funds for projects under this appropriation were available until June 30, 2016. In administering this program, the DNR complied with the Department of Administration - Office of Grants Management policies.
Stakeholders were involved in this proposal as applicants or reviewers (if no conflict of interest exists). There is no known stakeholder opposition to this program.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) was posted on the CPL website in August, 2012. This document contained grant program information, application requirements and scoring criteria, grant reporting requirements, and state agency contacts. A list of ECP Projects and criteria for each was developed by conservation biologists so grant applicants could easily apply and receive funding for commonly-accepted restoration and enhancement conservation projects. The RFP and grant agreements incorporated appropriate principles and criteria from LSOHC’s FY13 Call for Funding Requests and associated legislation. Simplified application processes were in place for applicants requesting up to $25,000 or ECP grants.
Grants were selected for funding once in the full for the Traditional cycle, and ECP applications were approved continuously throughout the year by CPL staff. CPL staff reviewed applications to make sure they were complete and met grant program requirements. Technical Review Committee(s), selected by the Commissioner of Natural Resources, reviewed and scored applications based on established criteria. These committees included representatives from DNR, BWSR, the University of MN, state universities or private colleges, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other appropriate members from government, non-profit organizations, and private businesses. A final ranking committee made up of the Directors of the DNR Divisions of Fish and Wildlife, Ecological Resources/Waters, and Forestry considered TRC, Division and Regional DNR comments, and recommended projects and funding levels to the Commissioner of Natural Resources. The Commissioner made the final decisions on all projects funded and funding levels. Efforts were made to evenly distribute the selected grants by geographic location and activity. CPL staff worked with grantees to ensure financial reviews, grant agreements, and any other necessary paperwork was completed.
Grantees submitted annual accomplishment reports, accounting 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 also included an evaluation of these results. A final report was required by all grantees. CPL staff submitted accomplishment reports to LSOHC. Accomplishment information was also posted on the CPL website.
Grant administration costs were billed using actual costs. These costs included salary and fringe for grants staff, direct support services, travel, supplies, and expense. An internal Service Level Agreement (SLA) was developed with DNR’s Management Information Systems to update and manage the online grant application system. (This budget item is included in the Contracts line in the attached Budget Table.)
Applicants were required to budget for DNR Land Acquisition costs that are necessary to support the land acquisition process for parcels to be conveyed to the DNR. The Division of Fish and Wildlife staff provided ongoing technical guidance. This technical guidance helped applicants prepare grant proposals, and helped grantees meet requirements for working on state lands. Additional technical guidance was provided for land acquisitions, program planning and management, accounting and grantee payment.
Grantees were paid on a reimbursement or “for services rendered” basis. Grantees must provide proof that the work was completed or a purchase made in order to receive payment. Grantees were required to provide a 10% match from nonstate sources. All match was verified before final grant payment were made.