Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program: Statewide and Metro Habitat - Phase VII
With the ML 2015 appropriation The Conservation Partners Legacy (CPL) Grant Program awarded 70 grants, 22 of these grants were the metropolitan area. Over 24,000 acres were enhanced, 2,500 acres were restored, and 386 acres protected through these 70 projects. Thirty-eight counties had CPL projects completed in them through 47 unique organizations. The average project for the ML 2015 grants was $96,000, with few exceptions most projects were completed on time and many were under budget. Additionally, the awarded grant partners contributed over $1.7 million in in-kind or cash match, far exceeding the 10% requirement.
The CPL Program fulfills MS 97a.056 Subd. 3a, directing LSOHC to establish a conservation partners' grant program, encouraging and supporting local conservation efforts. $7,844,000 of the appropriated funds was available for grants. This is a stand along program but depends on the support and technical advice of local land managers, habitat and acquisition specialists, and support staff.
Grant activities include: enhancement, restoration, and protection of forests, wetlands, prairies, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife. A 10% match from non-state sources is required for all grants.
CPL staff develop a Request for Proposal and Program Manual incorporating LSOHC priorities, solicit applications, work with applicants to submit scorable applications, oversee grant selection, prepare/execute grant documents, review expenditure documentation, ensure financial integrity, make payments, monitor grant work, assist recipients with closing out agreements, and prepare required reports. CPL staff complies with the Department of Administration- Office of Grants Management policies.
A Request for Proposal/Program Manual was posted on the CPL website in August 2015. Document contains all grant program information.
Applications are submitted on the online grant application system. Applicants use the mapping tool in the application to map project sites. Applications are accepted until September 2015 for round 1 of all grant cycles. Expedited Conservation Project (ECP) applications and applications for less than $25,000 have a shorter application form. The application system accepts ECP applications until funding runs out, but is designed for 5 rounds of applications. Traditional (statewide) applications were accepted once, Metro applications were accepted twice, and ECP applications were accepted three times.
Grant Selection Process:
Cpl Grant Program Staff review applications for completeness. Technical Review Committees, selected by the Commissioner of Natural Resources, evaluate applications based on criteria below. A final score is given to all applications. Committees include representatives from the DNR, BWSR, UMN, USFWS, USFS, counties, and other local government and non-profit organizations. A final ranking committee of Directors of the DNR Divisions of Fish and Wildlife, Ecological Resources/Waters, and Forestry consider the technical review committee, division and regional DNR comments, and recommend projects and funding to the Commissioner. ECP grants are reviewed by CPL staff, using criteria established for each type of project, and make recommendations. Division of Fish and Wildlife leadership make final decisions. CPL Grant Program Staff work with grantees to complete financial reviews, grant agreements, and other paperwork. Work may not begin until grant contract is executed. Applications are evaluated on these criteria:
Amount of habitat restored, enhanced, or protected
Degree of collaboration
Consistency with current conservation science
Adjacent to protected lands
Full funding of project
Public access for hunting and fishing
Use of native plant materials
Applicants' capacity to successfully complete and sustain work
Project Reviews and Reporting:
Grantees submit annual accomplishment reports on forms provided by CPL staff, based on LSOHC report forms. Reports account 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 must include an evaluation of these results. A final report is required by all grantees 30 days after project completion.
CPL Administration Budget:
Grant administration costs total $144,000, include salary/fringe for grants staff, direct and necessary costs, travel, supplies, and expenses. An Internal Service Level Agreement (SLA) is developed with MNIT to update/manage the online grant application system.
DNR Land Acquisition Costs:
Applicants are 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. These costs are billed to awarded grants on a professional services basis
DNR Technical Support:
The Division of Fish and Wildlife provides ongoing technical guidance, helping applicants prepare grant proposals and meet requirements for working on state lands. Project development and oversight is provided by area managers and additional guidance is provided for land acquisitions.
Grantees are paid on reimbursement basis, meaning payment is made to the grantee after work has been performed or materials purchased, but before the vendor is paid by the grantee. Grantees provide proof that work is completed or a purchase made to receive payment. Proof that the vendor was paid must be submitted to CPL staff before additional grant payments are made. Payment advances may be made for acquisitions with a signed purchase agreement. Partial payments are allowed. Funds are built into grants for required Legacy logo signage and forms of acknowledgement/notification including, but not limited to, local news advertisements announcing completion of grantees projects.
$8,440,000 in the first 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, or habitat for fish, game, or wildlife in Minnesota. Of this amount, $3,692,000 is for grants in the seven-county metropolitan area and cities with a population of 50,000 or greater. 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 the appropriation in this paragraph for projects that have a total project cost exceeding $575,000. Of this appropriation, $596,000 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. Grants may not be used to establish easement stewardship accounts. Land acquired in fee must be open to hunting and fishing during the open season unless otherwise provided by law. The program must 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 a charter to receive private contributions for local conservation or habitat projects. If acquiring land or a conservation easement, priority must be given to projects associated with or within one mile of 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; or 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 permanent covenant ensuring perpetual maintenance and protection of restored and enhanced habitat, by a conservation easement, or by public ownership or in public waters as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 103G.005, subdivision 15. Priority must 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, 2018. 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 summary prepared under Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.051, subdivision 2.
Restored 2,549 acres, protected (in fee with state PILT liability) 352 acres, protected 34 acres (without state PILT), and enhanced 24,265 acres for a total of 27,200 acres