Biden-Harris Administration, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Announce Over $140 Million in Grants from the America the Beautiful Challenge to Restore Lands and Waters

President Biden’s Investing in America agenda supports second round of grants to high-priority, locally-led conservation projects across the United States

Last edited 11/14/2023

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2023


WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration joined the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and public-and private-sector partners today in announcing $141.3 million in grants through the America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC). The 74 new grants announced today will support landscape-scale conservation projects across 46 states, three U.S. Territories, and 21 Tribal Nations, and will generate at least $12 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $153 million. Approximately 40 percent of 2023 grants and funding will support projects implemented by Indigenous communities, representing an unprecedented level of funding dedicated to Tribally led projects for a single grant program at NFWF.

America the Beautifullaunched by the Administration in 2021, set the nation’s first-ever goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The 10-year, locally led and nationally scaled initiative lifts up efforts to conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which we all depend. In his first two years in office, President Biden invested more dollars in conservation than any other President in a two-year period, and he is on track to conserve more lands and waters than any President in history.

ATBC grants support projects that conserve, restore, and connect wildlife habitats and ecosystems while improving community resilience and access to nature, which also advance President Biden’s ambitious environmental justice goals. The competitive grant awards were made possible through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, other federal conservation programs, and private sources. The White House launched the Challenge in 2022 as a partnership with the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Defense, Native Americans in Philanthropy, and NFWF.

“Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every community in America. Through the President’s Investing in America agenda, we have the historic opportunity to invest in locally led, collaborative efforts that can help combat the impacts of climate change, advance environmental justice, and safeguard the lands and waters we all love,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I’m thrilled that in this year’s grant selections, 40 percent of the projects awarded will be implemented by Tribal communities, putting Indigenous Knowledge at the center of our conservation work.”

“The America the Beautiful Challenge is mobilizing locally led conservation and restoration projects across the country, while making it easier for communities to access investments from President Biden’s historic conservation agenda,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “Today’s awards demonstrate how we are delivering on the President’s commitment to conserve our lands and waters for future generations and to better connect communities to nature so that everyone can enjoy a clean and safe environment and experience the wonder of the great outdoors.”

Secretary Haaland and Chair Mallory will visit projects in Arizona, Iowa and South Carolina this week to celebrate the awards, kicking off travel by other Administration officials to showcase locally led conservation in the coming months.

“Reflecting input from local partners, the America the Beautiful Challenge serves as a key component of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to protecting our nation’s natural treasures for generations to come,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Thanks to these awards, leveraged by non-federal dollars, USDA will undertake critical work with Tribes, NGOs and state partners, and others to protect vulnerable wildlife, improve fishing and hunting opportunities, and ensure forests and grasslands continue to supply clean drinking water.”

“The 2023 America the Beautiful Challenge projects will enhance capability across multiple Department of Defense installations and ensure the longevity and sustainability of natural lands that support our missions," said Brendan Owens, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Energy, Installations and Environment. “The seven DOD projects are receiving over $5.2 million in DOD Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program funding, coupled with nearly $2.2 million in funding from the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and nearly $787,000 in non-federal partner contributions. The shared support from DOI and non-federal partners will help safeguard critical testing and training missions, protect installation and defense community infrastructure from climate change impacts, and bolster new local partnerships that will help ensure our mission readiness.”

To streamline and centralize access to these funds, federal agencies worked together to establish the ATBC in May 2022 as a “one-stop-shop” competitive grant program for landscape-scale conservation and restoration projects that implement existing conservation plans across the nation. In only its second year, the 2023 ATBC request for proposals was a resounding success, with applicants submitting 456 pre-proposals representing a total nationwide conservation need of $885 million – illustrating the highlight competitive nature of the ATBC and the demand for investing in local conservation. Of those, NFWF invited 175 applicants to submit full proposals.

“The second year of the ATBC saw even greater demand for critical conservation and restoration investment across the nation,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The 74 grants announced today will benefit habitat and communities from Maine to Guam and from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands—and will enable local partners to deliver collaborative landscape-scale habitat restoration, sustain wildlife, connect communities to nature, and harness the benefits of natural systems to increase resilience.”

These projects will enable states, Tribal Nations, U.S. Territories, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and other grantees to develop and implement multi-jurisdictional, high-priority restoration projects on both public and private lands. The program is intended to encourage the development and implementation of voluntary, diverse and comprehensive landscape-level projects, and prioritizes projects that align with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which works to ensure the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.

Overall, the projects announced today are expected to:

  • Improve management of more than 13 million acres
  • Improve or remove more than 115 miles of fence to benefit wildlife
  • Manage more than 69,000 acres of fire-dependent habitat with prescribed burning
  • Remove or improve more than 150 barriers to fish and aquatic organism passage
  • Reconnect nearly 900 miles of stream or river
  • Restore more than 650 acres of wetlands
  • Open more than 6,600 acres for public access

The ATBC includes an emphasis on supporting Tribal access to grant funding for restoration, conservation and capacity-building, and seeks projects that incorporate Indigenous Knowledge in planning and implementation. The number of proposals awarded to Tribal Nation applicants in 2023 far exceeded expectations and demonstrated high demand and clear need for the funding.

“Indigenous Knowledge and leadership are critical if the U.S. hopes to address the climate and biodiversity crisis,” said Erik Stegman, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy. “I am deeply grateful to our funders and partners at the Tribal Nations Climate and Conservation Funding Collaborative who, for the second year in a row, helped Tribes meet the non-federal match requirement, an historic barrier for many to receiving federal funds. This year, by leveraging $1.5 million in private dollars, Tribes will be able to access more than $50 million in new public funding to address critical conservation projects. This is a historic moment for our community.”

A complete list of the 2023 grants made through the ATBC is available here. To learn more about the program, including applicant eligibility, funding priorities and submission requirements, visit the NFWF ATBC webpage.


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