Outdoor Heritage Conservation Partners Grant Program - FY2012
$5,629,000 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 enhancement, restoration, or protection of 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 $475,000. $319,000 of this appropriation may be spent for personnel costs and other 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 grants of $100,000 or less and a match of at least 15 percent from nonstate sources for grants over $100,000. Up to one-third of the match may be in-kind resources. For grant applications of $25,000 or less, the commissioner shall provide a separate, simplified application process. The criteria for evaluating grant applications over $25,000 must include the amount of habitat restored, enhanced, or protected; local support; encouragement of a local conservation culture; urgency; capacity to achieve multiple benefits; habitat benefits provided; consistency with current conservation science; adjacency to protected lands; full funding of the project; supplementing existing funding; public access for hunting and fishing during the open season; sustainability; degree of collaboration; and use of native plant materials. All projects must conform to the Minnesota statewide conservation and preservation plan. Wildlife habitat projects must also conform to the Minnesota wildlife action plan. Subject to the evaluation criteria and requirements of this paragraph and Minnesota Statutes, the commissioner of natural resources shall give priority to organizations that have a history of receiving or charter to receive private contributions for local conservation or habitat projects when evaluating projects of equal value. 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. Subdivision 9 applies to grants awarded under this paragraph. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2015. 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 2011 game and fish law summaries that are prepared under Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.051, subdivision 2.
43,525 acres protected, restored or enhanced
The Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program is managed by the Department of Natural Resources to provide competitive matching grants to local, regional, state, and national non-profit organizations, including governments.
The Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program (CPL) is managed by the Minnesota 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. Match may be cash or in-kind resources. All match must be identified at the time of application.
CPL Program Staff developed a Request for Proposal and Program Manual that incorporated the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council’s (LSOHC) priorities, solicited applications and worked with applicants to submit scorable applications, oversee the grant selection process, prepare and execute grant documents, review expenditure documentation to ensure recipients are only reimbursed for allowable expenses, make reimbursement payments, monitor grant work, assist recipients with closing out their agreements, and prepare reports as required by the LSOHC.
MS 97a.056 Subd. 3a directed the LSOHC to establish a conservation partners grant program to encourage and support local conservation efforts. Subsequent session law established additional guidelines and criteria for this program and authorized the DNR to administer it.
Applicants describe the location of the work (county and ecological subsection), activity type, and habitat in their application. They also describe how their actions benefit habitat and fish, game and wildlife. For acquisition projects, applicants describe their parcel selection process. All projects address the priorities in the Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan, and Tomorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare.
Funds for projects under this appropriation were available until June 30, 2015.
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 was no known stakeholder opposition to this program.
Grant Application Process
A Request for Proposal (RFP) and Program Manual (PM) were posted on the CPL website in early August, 2011. These documents contained grant program information, application requirements and scoring criteria, grant reporting requirements, and state agency contacts. The RFP, PM, and all grant agreements incorporated appropriate principles and criteria from the LSOHC’s Call for Funding Requests – 2012 Appropriations and associated legislation.
CPL Program Staff explored ways to reduce any real or perceived barriers in the application process. This included a survey(s) and/or discussion groups involving previous applicants and applicants to similar grant programs, and exploring the use of a pre-application system. The results were incorporated into the FY12 application process.
Applications were submitted electronically using CPL’s Online Grant Application System (OLGA). All project sites were mapped using OLGA’s mapping tool. OLGA accepted applications beginning in August, 2011, until the deadline for the first round of grants in mid-September, 2011. The application system did not accept applications during the review process.
Grants were selected for funding twice. Ungranted funds from the first cycle were available for use in a following cycle, or were distributed to current grantees to assist approved projects. DNR reserved the right to make additional awards under this announcement, consistent with DNR and Outdoor Heritage Fund policy and guidance, if additional funding became available, or if a grantee could not carry out their project as planned.
Grant Selection Process
CPL Grant Program 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 criteria established by the LSOHC, MN State Legislature, and DNR. These committees included representatives from DNR, BWSR, the University of MN, 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 decision on the projects funded and funding levels. Projects could be fully or partially funded.
Every effort was made to evenly distribute the selected grants by geographic location, activity, and funding level, with an objective of granting 50% of the funds to projects above $125,000, and 50% of the funds to projects below $125,000.
CPL Grant 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.
Project Reviews and Reporting
Project reviews were completed as required by Office of Grants Management Policy 08-10, Grant Monitoring.
Grantees submitted 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 included an evaluation of these results. A final report was required by all grantees within 30 days after the project was complete.
CPL Grant Program staff submitted accomplishment reports to the LSOHC as required. Accomplishment information was also posted on the CPL website.
CPL Administration Budget
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.
DNR Land Acquisition Costs
Grantees were required to budget for DNR Land Acquisition costs that were necessary to support the land acquisition process for parcels to be conveyed to the DNR. These costs were billed to the grantees on a professional services basis and were paid with either grant or match funds.
DNR Technical Support
The Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates it provided $70,000 of ongoing technical guidance from Division field staff. This technical guidance helped grantees meet requirements for working on state lands.
Grantees were required to provide a 10% match from non-state sources. Match was cash or in-kind resources.