The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has announced a call for proposals for the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund (Fund) to restore, enhance and maintain bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands and promote aquatic connectivity on private and public lands to improve wildlife habitat and water quality.
Major funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, the Walton Family Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Fund is guided by NFWF’s Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Business Plan, which identifies six strategic priorities to restore and enhance bottomland hardwood wetlands and aquatic habitats. Goals for two species are currently outlined in the business plan: Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) and swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus). These species were selected as indicators of healthy bottomland hardwood forests and represent the habitat needs of a broader suite of species dependent upon this system. Additional species that are indicators of healthy bottomland hardwood wetlands and improved aquatic connectivity are under consideration for inclusion in the business plan at a later date, including forest birds, waterfowl and freshwater fish. Projects should seek to benefit at least one of these species or groups.
Priority will be given to projects that effectively implement one or more of the following strategies:
- Bottomland Hardwood Forest Enhancement and Maintenance: Promote and implement the management and enhancement of existing bottomland hardwood forests to improve forest habitat structure and understory condition, and wildlife habitat and water quality. Projects that address bottomland hardwood enhancement and management on private lands are encouraged to include lands enrolled in the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) or Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), which for the purposes of this RFP will be referred to as WRP/WRE. Strategies may include:
- Mechanical/Herbicide/Thinning: Thinning, pre-commercial thinning, invasive species control, crop tree release and residual stocking to improve forest stand structure, and tree and understory species composition to benefit wildlife. Projects that include treatments on properties enrolled in WRP/WRE should coordinate with the appropriate NRCS state office to ensure compatibility and reference the Tool for Assessment and Treatment of Reforested Bottomland Hardwood Stands on Wetland Reserve Easements.
- WRP/WRE Forest Inventory, Assessment, and Management Plan Development: Assist landowners with inventorying and assessing forest stands and developing forest management plans on properties enrolled in WRP/WRE. Plans should be developed in consultation with the appropriate NRCS state office to ensure compatibility and should address management recommendations that improve forest health and wildlife habitat quality.
- Implementation Barriers: Identify and address specific barriers to bottomland hardwood management and habitat enhancement in a specific geography (i.e., lack of markets, community issues, etc.). Innovative strategies implemented as pilot projects, with the potential of being scaled up and transferred across the landscape, are encouraged.
- Restore, Wetland and Floodplain Hydrology and Implement Conservation Practices to Improve Water Quality: Improve hydrological connectivity and wetland and floodplain habitat functions, and implement conservation practices on working lands to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
- Bottomland Hardwood Forest Restoration (Planting): Restore bottomland hardwood forests in targeted areas that expand existing bottomland hardwood forests and create corridors between existing blocks of bottomland hardwood forest to promote wildlife dispersal and expansion. For the purposes of the Fund, “restoration” refers to the establishment of new bottomland hardwood forests, including reforestation of harvested sites and afforestation of cropland. Specific strategies may include:
- Bottomland Hardwood Plantings: Implementation of strategies to establish new bottomland hardwood stands on public and private lands include site preparation (e.g., herbicide, mechanical site preparation) and planting of bottomland hardwood seedlings.
- Natural Regeneration: Practices that promote natural regeneration of bottomland hardwood forests.
- Target Outreach, Education and Assistance to Private Landowners, Forest Practitioners and Other Key Constituencies: The Fund desires to support projects that include outreach and technical assistance to, and enhanced participation of underserved landowners and producers, including USDA’s historically underserved farmers and ranchers.
- Outreach, Education and Technical Assistance: Support capacity for outreach, education, training, technical assistance and implementation of practices to increase bottomland hardwood wetland restoration and enhancement and improve water quality on private and public lands.
- Demonstration sites: NFWF will support demonstration projects that are designed to engage public and private landowners, foresters and land managers and other key partners to increase bottomland hardwood restoration and implementation of enhancement treatments to improve the wildlife habitat value of existing bottomland hardwood forests.
- Advance new market-based solutions or incentives: Pilot innovative, market-oriented solutions or incentives that stimulate landowner participation in bottomland forest and wetland restoration, enhancement, and protection practices.
- Increase participation in third-party forest certification: Increase participation in third-party forest certification programs to encourage third-party verification of sustainable forest management practices for bottomland hardwood forests and associated wildlife.
- Bottomland Hardwood Forest Habitat Conservation (Easements): Funding is available for capacity and transaction costs to facilitate conservation easements that protect existing, high-quality bottomland hardwood habitat, or key sites targeted for bottomland hardwood restoration and/or enhancement that are part of a broader restoration proposal.
- Improve Aquatic Connectivity: Remove or retrofit water conveyance structures, such as dikes and levees, to improve flows between rivers and side channels to increase habitat connectivity for fish and other aquatic species.
- Restoration Response Monitoring: Develop monitoring protocols to measure Louisiana black bear, swamp rabbit, forest bird, waterfowl and freshwater fish response to habitat restoration and enhancement. Where baseline data is not available, monitoring proposals should establish a baseline measurement.
- The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund anticipates awarding approximately $1.6 million in grants in FY 2021.
- Grant awards are expected to range from $100,000 to $500,000, depending on the overall scale of the project. This program has one annual application cycle.
- Anticipated completion time for funded projects typically will be 24-36 months following finalization of a grant agreement.
- Significant progress with project implementation is expected to be achieved in year one, including interim deliverables.
- Project start and end dates should define the period during which all proposed work is accomplished, all requested funds are spent and all matching funds are spent or applied.
The Fund will award grants within the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV) region of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.
- Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Tribal Governments and Organizations, and educational institutions.
- Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, businesses, unincorporated individuals and international organizations. U.S. Federal agencies, businesses and unincorporated individuals are encouraged to partner with applicants but are not eligible to submit an application.