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USDA Invites Sign-Up for $20 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants

Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Arlen Lancaster this week invited project sponsors to reply to the request for proposals for Conservation Innovation Grants in 2008.

Proposals are due February 20.

The CIG program is designed to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies.

"CIG enables NRCS to work with other public and private entities to accelerate transfer and adoption of promising technologies and conservation approaches to address some of the Nation's most pressing natural resource concerns," said Lancaster. "CIG benefits agricultural producers by providing more options for environmental enhancement."

For fiscal year 2008, up to $20 million is available for the National CIG competition. Funds for single- or multi-year projects, not to exceed three years, will be awarded through a nationwide competitive grants process with applications accepted from all 50 States, the Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and the Pacific Basin Area (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) from all eligible non-federal government or non-government organizations or individuals, including federally recognized tribes.

There are three CIG categories available in FY 2008:

· Natural Resource Concerns Category- Up to $10 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG natural resource concerns.

· Technology Category- Up to $5 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG technology categories.

· Chesapeake Bay Watershed Category- Up to $5 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG natural resource concerns in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will be accepting and reviewing the applications for this category. For more information, visit the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Category webpage.

Applicants should explain how large a geographic area that the project would benefit. Projects may be watershed-based, regional, multi-State, or nationwide in scope. Applications should describe the use of innovative technologies or approaches, or both, to address a natural resource conservation concern(s).

Funding for CIG is made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. All proposed CIG projects must involve EQIP-eligible producers. CIG funds that are used to provide direct or indirect payments to individuals or entities to implement structural, vegetative or management practices are subject to the $450,000 EQIP payment limitation.

CIG is not a research program, but rather a tool to stimulate the adoption of conservation approaches or technologies that have been studied sufficiently to indicate a high likelihood of success, and are likely candidates for eventual technology transfer.

CIG will fund projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations. Technologies and approaches that are commonly used in the geographic area covered by the application, and which are eligible for funding through EQIP, are not eligible for funding through CIG. Proposed projects must conform to the description of innovative conservation projects or activities published in the Announcement of Program Funding.

CIG funds pilot projects and conservation field trials that can last from one to three years. Grants for approved projects cannot exceed 50 percent of the total project cost. The federal contribution for a single project cannot exceed $1 million. At least 50 percent of the total cost of the project must come from non-Federal matching funds (cash and in-kind contributions) provided by the grantee.

While NRCS will provide technical oversight for each project receiving an award, the grantee is responsible for providing the technical assistance required to successfully complete the project.

Applications should be sent to: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Conservation Innovation Grants Program; Financial Assistance Programs Division, Room 5239-S; 1400 Independence Ave, SW.; Washington, DC 20250.

For more information, visit the Conservation Innovation Grants webpage.


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