Finding U.S. Stimulus Dollars For Your Private Property Conservation Project, Part 2. (continued from Part 1) Back to Part 1
safe drinking water, sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm drainage facilities in rural areas. Rural Development's Household Water Well System (HWWS) Grant Program provides grants to let homeowners borrow money from qualified private non-profit organizations to improve household water wells. $412,000,000 goes to the Rural Water & Waste Disposal Direct Loan Program and $968,000,000 to the Rural Water & Waste Disposal Grants Program.
Department of the Interior gets $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation; $750 million for the National Park Service; $500 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs; $320 million for the Bureau of Land Management; $280 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and $140 million for the U.S. Geological Survey. For oversight and audit of programs, grants, and projects funded in the Act, the Office of Inspector General receives $15 million.
Like the USDA's Forest Service, some of the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management's $320 million will go to brush removal to reduce fire hazard. However, authorizing renewable energy development, while ensuring environmental protection by restoring and protecting wildlife and native habitat, seems to be the focus for BLM for this initial phase of funding.
DOI's Fish and Wildlife Service receives $280 million of the ARRA money. Some will go to funding projects that seek to restore wetlands, riparian habitat, endangered species habitat, and, as FWS notes, "other important landscapes".
Most of the $7.22 billion share of the stimulus Environmental Protection Agency receives goes into the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Since 1987 the Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides states with low-interest or no-interest funding for the installation, repair, and upgrading of on-site septic, drainfield, mound or cluster wastewater systems in rural areas. The CWSRF will receive $4 billion, while the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, developed in 1997, gets $2 billion more to help states pay for clean and safe drinking water infrastructure.
EPA requires that for this stimulus specific funding, states must provide 20% of their funding to "green" environmentally friendly or sustainable practices. Some of EPA's green guidelines include; wet weather storm drainage that reuses storm water or protects or restores natural hydrologies; projects that preserve or restore natural landscape features such as wetlands, forests, and floodplains; and activities that improve water quality to protect natural wildlife habitat. Smaller scale green infrastructure practices that enhance hydrologic function might include rainwater harvesting, rain gardens, porous pavements, green roofs, and planting vegetation for storm water infiltration.
NOAA or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, residing within the Department of Commerce, will receive $830 million, or the equivalent of 20% of its 2008 budget, from the ARRA stimulus. Some of the money will go to obvious interests such as computing technologies for climate modeling, weather forecasting, satellite deployment and research into "climate change", however at least $170 million will be available for coastal and marine habitat restoration. NOAA plans to award this funding for coastal wetland, fish migration routes on coastal rivers, shellfish habitat, and coral reef restoration to applicants with projects ranging from $1.5 million to $10 million.
While Department of Energy stimulus money does not go directly to natural resource conservation projects for the land, $3.2 billion of the stimulus money goes to help DOE promote energy efficiency and energy conservation and reduce fossil fuel emissions. Block grants will be available to states to upgrade homes, offices, government buildings, roads, and landfills. Funding is determined from a formula that takes into account population size and energy use and will encourage the use of energy audits, advanced building codes and inspections, as well as financial incentives for energy efficiency. Later, a competitive grant program will provide some additional funding for local energy efficiency projects.
So, how do I get some stimulus money for my conservation project?
Not much "free government money", directly available for conservation in the form of tax credits, grants or loans to land owners, will be available in the first phase of the stimulus. However, if you are willing to apply a little creativity, some planning and a lot of patience there still may be opportunity for you, a lowly tax-paying citizen and private property owner, to take advantage of this unprecedented massive spending bill to apply to conservation projects on your land.
The primary or at least symbolic objective of the ARRA stimulus bill is to fund shovel ready projects to create or save American jobs. The Obama Administration needs substantive proof that this unprecedented spending bill does actually create jobs. In an effort to demonstrate transparency in government, The Administration intends to gather jobs related outcome data from each agency, state or entity participating in the stimulus funding package for posting on the www.recovery.gov website.
A common objective for each agency gives priority to projects that show immediate hiring or contracting of labor. Your conservation project, while not in itself labor intensive, could be a part of a larger community, watershed or floodplain project that does show substantial hiring.
Look for opportunities within larger ecological boundaries and align your project with larger environmental initiatives to leverage. To do this you will need to clearly understand the objectives of your natural resource conservation project and know how it fits into larger scale projects in your area. Once you have evaluated the conservation objectives of your project and the benefits of your project to a larger ecosystem you will be prepared to identify opportunities for funding. Your project planning should include a determination of existing conditions and the conservation practices and landscape design that will improve soil, water, air and wildlife habitat for the larger ecosystem. Check with the local federal agency district office or website for projects and current initiatives that include similar objectives for your property. Contact local conservation organizations, state departments of fish and wildlife, cooperative extensions, weed management and watershed districts, as they may also be involved in stimulus projects. Evaluate how these larger conservation projects can benefit your property and, if conservation objectives align, promote the benefits of the additional hiring and larger resource area coverage your conservation project will give to the larger ecosystem project.
Another glimmer of hope lies in the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Programs. Both USDA Forest Service and DOI Bureau of Land Management have increased funding for brush removal. Often your rural community is already participating in Forest Service or BLM brush clearing and the wildfire management program for urban forest interface properties. Communities are becoming more aware that using appropriate native vegetation helps reduce fire hazard. Some fuel reduction programs include funding for seeds, plants and planting to restore native vegetation. Fuel reduction is a great opportunity to manage wildlife habitat. If your community does not currently provide native vegetation or restoration with brush management programs, now that the agencies have more funding, it's a good time to bring up the idea!
Clean water and proper function of watershed and floodplain systems is another beneficiary of the stimulus money. Proper hydrologic function uses wetlands, riparian areas and natural floodplains to buffer precipitation events to protect natural resources and human populations from harmful storms. Natural hydrologic features also filter wastewater and provide fresh drinking water for human populations. Watersheds are hydrologic systems unique to geographic areas. Federal, state, local governments and conservation organizations now understand that conservation activities should be viewed within the larger context of watersheds for best results. The NRCS Watershed Operations Program and the Floodplain Easement Program provide incentives for property owners within designated and priority watersheds. Contact your state or local NRCS field office to see if your property lies within a priority watershed.
When looking for stimulus money for natural resource conservation on property along coastal waterways, consider NOAA's marine and estuary habitat restoration dollars. Since NOAA plans to award grants to a limited group of higher value projects, scope out previous NOAA spending on marine habitat projects noting what areas are high priority. If you are located in a high priority area, try contacting the contracting firms involved in previous NOAA marine habitat grants.
In a different way, EPA provides some funding to improve water quality and hydrologic function: Your community might be able to get better wells or clean up those out dated sewer systems with money from the stimulus bill. Your state will be evaluating projects to receive the EPA block grants. Be sure to keep in touch with your county commissioner. Keep in mind that EPA will be looking for a "green" component in the projects. Preference may be given to projects that offer to add tested Sustainable Sites Initiative or LEED, U.S. Green Building Council' s green building rating system, acknowledged greenscape elements into the infrastructure design.
Smaller scale or single-family well and septic system owners may benefit from WEP or USDA Rural Development Water and Environmental Programs. Contact the local USDA Rural Development office for information on organizations that give grants and loans to property owners.
While it is unclear how DOI Fish and Wildlife's stimulus money will be distributed, it's likely that high priority, high visibility, and popular recreational area projects will be funded. Your chances of funding will be better if your property is located near a Fish and Wildlife wildlife refuge or range, migratory bird flyway or involves preservation of endangered species. Be aware that endangered species located on your property may limit your use of the property.
Be part of the big picture.
On May 20, agencies will begin reporting who will receive competitive grants and contracts, and by July 15, 2009, recipients will begin reporting on their use of funds. Stimulus money has to be spent. Highly visible projects, that give measurable results, address significant natural resource concerns and that are sure to give credibility to government spending will be taking place for priority watersheds, popular aquatic habitat, urban wildland interface forests and wild and scenic rivers, and underserved rural communities. Properties located near BLM National Conservation Areas, popular Forest Service recreation areas, Fish and Wildlife refuges and National Parks could also be beneficiaries of stimulus funding. Knowing how your project fits into larger scale natural resource conservation initiatives can help you get your share of the stimulus dollars.
March 28, 2009 Wendi Lutz, Three Ravens Ranch
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The Natural Plant Selector Kit from Three Ravens Ranch.
To help you get started, the advisors at Three Ravens Ranch have developed a basic kit that lets you organize and streamline your landscape project. Using the Natural Plant Selector Kit for Landscape and the concept of ecoregion adaptability, you'll be able to achieve your landscape goals more efficiently. This basic kit arrives with a question and answer survey sheet to help you determine your landscape objectives and your ecoregion habitat location along with a simple soil test kit that you send to us for laboratory analysis. When soil testing is completed, our advisors evaluate your soil test results and landscape needs and provide you with a list of ecoregion adapted seeds and plants. Your comprehensive report also includes customized planting and cultivation tips for your landscape project.