New Public-Private One-Stop Shop Eases Access to Grants and Will Deliver Landscape-Scale Impact

First Round of Funding Will Award up to $85 Million in Grants, Boosted by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Local Conservation and Restoration Projects

Today, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced the release of the 2022 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Biden-Harris Administration’s America the Beautiful Challenge, which leverages Federal conservation and restoration investments with private and philanthropic contributions to accelerate land, water, and wildlife conservation efforts across the country. A Congressionally-chartered entity, NFWF has nearly 40 years of experience in developing and managing competitive grant programs, including restoration efforts on the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill.

Last month, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Department of the Interior (DOI), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Defense (DOD) announced the America the Beautiful Challenge, which is a new public-private grant program administered by NFWF. The America the Beautiful Challenge will leverage Federal conservation and restoration investments to raise additional philanthropic and private support, with the goal of directing at least $1 billion in grants to accelerate land, water, and wildlife conservation efforts across the country over the next five years.

The RFP announced today will offer states, Tribes, territories, local groups, non-governmental organizations, and others the opportunity to apply for multiple grant programs through a single application that is managed by NFWF. This one-stop-shop solicitation will streamline the grant application process and facilitate the coordination of funding for projects across landscapes, watersheds, and seascapes to achieve larger and more durable benefits on the ground.

This year, NFWF expects to award up to $85 million in grants to support locally led ecosystem restoration projects that invest in watershed restoration, resilience, equitable access, workforce development, corridors and connectivity, and collaborative conservation, consistent with the America the Beautiful Initiative. The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a major source of the initial Federal investments for the America the Beautiful Challenge. In addition, 24 philanthropic organizations, which currently invest $250 million annually to address our country’s biodiversity and climate crises, have committed to align their organizations’ funding with the principles of the America the Beautiful Initiative and to support the new public-private partnership in expanding investment in conservation. The groups also thanked the President for his leadership and applauded the launch of the America the Beautiful Challenge. 

Projects funded through the America the Beautiful Challenge will advance the principles underlying the America the Beautiful Initiative, as described in the Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful Report. During its first year, the America the Beautiful Challenge will seek to fund projects across the following themes:

  • Conserving and restoring rivers, coasts, wetlands, and watersheds
  • Conserving and restoring forests, grasslands, and other important ecosystems that serve as carbon sinks
  • Connecting and reconnecting wildlife corridors, large landscapes, watersheds, and seascapes
  • Improving ecosystem and community resilience to flooding, drought, and other climate-related threats
  • Expanding access to the outdoors, particularly in underserved communities

Consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to honoring Tribal sovereignty and advancing equity for Indigenous people, applicants are encouraged to prioritize projects that uplift Tribal and Indigenous-led efforts, and funding will be set aside specifically to support Tribal Nations’ efforts, as well as those of territories.

In addition, NFWF will work to ensure that the effort is implemented in a manner that is consistent with the President’s Justice40 Initiative, as applicable. Furthermore, applicants are encouraged to consider how proposals build the conservation and resilience workforce of the future, through workforce development, utilizing national service, and partnering with relevant and accessible training opportunities, such as youth corps.  Projects that develop the restoration workforce, in particular with AmeriCorps and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps programs, are encouraged.

Proposals for the 2022 RFP for the America the Beautiful Challenge are due July 21, 2022, and funding will be awarded in November of 2022.  The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will provide the first of a series of Applicant Webinars on May 19th, 2022.

Chair Brenda Mallory is set to announce the 2022 RFP for the America the Beautiful Challenge while visiting the I-4 wildlife crossing in Polk City, Florida today. The Florida Wildlife Corridor falls under one of the major themes for projects that will be funded through the America the Beautiful Challenge: connecting and reconnecting wildlife corridors, large landscapes, watersheds, and seascapes. Chair Mallory will tour the site to see firsthand how the I-4 crossing will connect habitats in the area and learn about the collaborations and partnerships that are key to landscape-scale conservation. 

Secretary Haaland will highlight investments from the America the Beautiful Challenge while visiting the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge to celebrate the re-opening of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Visitor Center. Secretary Haaland will also outline the Department of the Interior’s broader efforts to conserve and protect public lands and waters through collaborative efforts, connect people of all backgrounds with nature as outlined in theAmerica the Beautiful Initiative, and implement investments from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“The America the Beautiful Challenge will help mobilize new investments in locally led, voluntary conservation and restoration projects across the country, while making it easier for communities to access these resources,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “This new effort responds to the President’s call to all of us to do more to conserve our lands and waters for future generations and to ensure that every person in our country can experience the wonder of the outdoors.”

“With President Biden’s bold leadership, this first-ever national conservation goal draws upon our best values – including collaboration, science, and innovation – to help conserve and protect our lands and waters,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The America the Beautiful Challenge offers an opportunity to support local efforts led by those who know, love, and have a stake in their surrounding landscapes. The Interior Department is proud to invest in a future where we can all work together to preserve our Earth for generations to come.” 

“Collaboration with our state, Tribal, NGO and private working land partners is an essential part of USDA’s successful conservation programs. With strong partnerships we can more effectively conserve our precious natural resources and lands and expand access to these national treasures for underserved communities. Enabling more efficient partner access to financial and technical assistance through this initiative will build on our progress and help fulfill the President’s promise to conserve our land and water for generations to come,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“The America the Beautiful Challenge meets a critical need as the Department of Defense is building diverse partnerships with local communities to sustainably manage landscapes and scale up climate resilience work. This increased access to federal funding will help our partners collaboratively advance conservation and climate adaptation goals that are key to sustaining military missions and national security imperatives,” said Mr. Paul Cramer, Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Installations, Energy and Environment.

“NFWF looks forward to working with states, Tribes, territories, and the conservation community to invest in voluntary conservation projects that support working lands, improve community resilience through nature-based investments, and enhance habitat for our nation’s fish and wildlife,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “This historic new initiative will drive conservation at a landscape scale by partnering with multiple agencies to create a single point of entry for potential grantees across the nation to apply for conservation funding.”

While not eligible for the single solicitation, additional investments totaling $2.34 billion will be issued by USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to fund projects that are consistent with the goals and recommendations of the America the Beautiful Initiative. 

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