Biden-Harris Administration, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Announce Up To $116 Million for Locally Led Conservation Projects

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues to fund unique efforts across the nation

Last edited 03/01/2023

Date: Wednesday, March 1, 2023


WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced the release of the 2023 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the America the Beautiful Challenge. The program, which was launched in 2022, is dedicated to funding locally led landscape-scale conservation and restoration projects that implement existing conservation plans across the nation. In 2023, the program expects to award up to $116 million in grants.

The Challenge is a partnership between the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Defense, NFWF and Native Americans in Philanthropy. It makes funding more accessible to communities by offering eligible 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.

“Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community in America,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Through the America the Beautiful Challenge, we are catalyzing investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to pursue locally led, collaborative and inclusive approaches to conservation to advance climate resilience, create jobs, strengthen our economy, and ensure that everyone has access to nature, now and for future generations.”

“The America the Beautiful Challenge offers an opportunity to expand and strengthen our work with partners to support locally led conservation efforts,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is proud to support the second year of the challenge to broaden the reach of our programming to benefit communities across the country.”

“The America the Beautiful Challenge serves as a valuable opportunity for the Department of Defense (DOD) to work collaboratively across the federal government to conserve natural habitats outside installations and ranges, strengthen climate resilience, and protect critical mission priorities,” said Brendan Owens, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Energy, Installations and Environment. “Through the America the Beautiful Challenge, DOD can support the implementation of large-scale, multi-state conservation activities that have direct ties to the Military Departments’ testing and training operations. DOD is also proud to partner with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership. This year’s America the Beautiful Challenge will prioritize projects that advance goals and initiatives across sentinel landscapes, which are each anchored by a military installation and serve as areas of strategic importance for DOD, USDA, and DOI.”

“The America the Beautiful Challenge created a one-stop shop to help communities access funding for conservation and restoration initiatives,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “This collaborative effort has and will continue to advance locally-led projects aligned with the President’s ambitious America the Beautiful initiative, conserving our lands and waters while also expanding access to the outdoors across the country.”

The competitive grant awards are made possible with funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, other federal conservation programs, and private sources. Consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to honoring Tribal sovereignty and advancing equity for Indigenous peoples, applicants will be encouraged to prioritize projects that incorporate Indigenous-led efforts. Funding will be set aside specifically to support Tribal Nations’ efforts, as well as those of territories. Matching funds for Tribal projects are covered by Native Americans in Philanthropy.

The Office of Management and Budget recently directed all federal agencies and departments to waive local cost share requirements under $200,000 for grants for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands. For local matching funds $200,000 and greater, agencies and departments may waive the matching requirement for these four territories. As such, NFWF will waive the matching fund requirements for U.S. territories.

ATBC grant pre-proposals are due April 20, 2023, and the full RFP can be found on NFWF's Request for Proposals webpage. Awards are expected to be announced in November 2023.

In addition to an increase in overall funding, the RFP also includes the following changes from 2022:

  • Inclusion of a pre-proposal process, which will allow applicants to submit their projects using a simplified application, primarily centered on a 2–3-page narrative.
  • Five distinct grant categories, including an individual grant category for funding from the Department of Defense and the Forest Service respectively.
  • The Forest Service will fund a wider variety of forest management activities, beyond only invasive species management, fish passage, and water quality projects.
  • Planning projects have an increased cap of $2 million and can be up to 3 years.

Proposals are reviewed by a public-private committee of partners and technical experts, and funding decisions are based on the extent to which they meet the criteria listed in the RFP.

In its first year, the program received an unprecedented response in applications including applications for every state, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories and 133 Tribal nations. It awarded 55 grants totaling $91 million, leveraging an additional $50 million in grantee match for a total conservation investment of $141 million. Grants are enabling states, Tribal Nations, U.S. territories, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and other grantees to develop and implement multijurisdictional, high-priority restoration projects on both public and private lands. The 2022 grants and summaries can be found on NFWF's website.

Additional information about the program can be found on NFWF's America the Beautiful Challenge webpage.


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