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USDA announces FY2009 sign-up for conservation innovation grants

Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Arlen Lancaster Feb. 4 announced the availability of program funding for Conservation Innovation Grants for fiscal year 2009. The CIG program is designed to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies.

"CIG projects can help keep us at the leading edge of building sustainable communities," said Lancaster. "This competitive grant program helps us advance environmental goals that also contribute to and protect local economies."

The Department of Agriculture's NRCS administers CIG. For FY 2009, 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 Islands 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.

FY 2009 CIG categories are:

--Natural Resource Concerns Category--up to $5 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG natural resource concerns. This category has been offered since 2004.

--Technology Category--up to $6 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG technology categories. This category was offered for the first time in 2006.

--Grant Leveraging Category--up to $4 million to pilot the leveraging of CIG grants projects that provide further grants that align with the purposes of CIG. This is the first year CIG offers this category.

--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. This category has been offered since 2005.

Applicants should explain the geographic area that the project would benefit including information about the natural resource concern. Applicants should also describe the innovative technologies or approaches which will be used to address the natural resource conservation concern. Other requirements are identified in the Announcement of Program Funding.

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 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 $2 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 must be received in the NRCS National Headquarters by close of business March 2. 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. To view the complete Announcement of Program Funding, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig/. To apply electronically visit: www.grants.gov/.

For more information about NRCS conservation programs online, visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov, or visit the nearest USDA Service Center in your area. Since its inception in 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating sate and national interests.



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