CA Conservation Innovation Grant

Funding Opportunity Number: USDA-NRCS-CA-16-0001
Opportunity Category: Discretionary
Funding Instrument Type: Cooperative Agreement
Category of Funding Activity: Natural Resources
CFDA Number: 10.912
Eligible Applicants State governments
Special district governments
Independent school districts
Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized)
Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
Private institutions of higher education
Agency Name: USDA-NRCS-CSO
Closing Date: Jun 17, 2016
Award Ceiling: $75,000
Expected Number of Awards: 5
Creation Date: Mar 28, 2016
Funding Opportunity Description: SUMMARY: The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Proposals will be accepted from California. NRCS anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2016 will be up to $375,000. Proposals are requested from eligible governmental or non-governmental organizations or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between 1 and 3 years in duration. This notice identifies the objectives, eligibility criteria, and application instructions for CIG projects. Proposals will be screened for completeness and compliance with the provisions of this notice. Incomplete and/or noncompliant proposals will be eliminated from competition, and notification of elimination will be sent to the applicant. DATES: Proposals must be received by NRCS before 4:30 p.m. on June 17, 2016. ADDRESSES: Proposals must be sent electronically through In addition proposals must be emailed to in PDF format. Overnight courier service must be sent to the following address: USDA-NRCS, CIG Program, 430 G Street # 4164, Davis, CA 95616. Proposals sent via the United States Postal Service must be sent to the following address: USDA-NRCS, CIG Program, 430 G Street # 4164, Davis, CA 95616. FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT CIG Program Contact Erik Beardsley State CIG Program Manager 430 G Street # 4164 Davis, CA 95616 Phone: (530) 792-5649 E-mail: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION A. Legislative Authority The Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program is authorized as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) (16 U.S.C. 3839aa-8). The Secretary of Agriculture delegated the authority for the administration of EQIP, including CIG, to the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who is Vice President of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). EQIP is funded and administered by NRCS under the authorities of the CCC. B. Overview The purpose of CIG is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies, while leveraging the Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG projects are expected to lead to the transfer of conservation technologies, management systems, and innovative approaches (such as market-based systems) into NRCS technical manuals and guides or to the private sector. CIG is used to apply or demonstrate previously proven technology in order to increase adoption with an emphasis on opportunities to scale proven, emerging conservation strategies. CIG promotes sharing of skills, knowledge, technologies, and facilities among communities, governments, and other institutions to ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users. CIG funds projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations. CIG does not fund research projects, with the exception of on-farm conservation research. On-farm conservation research is defined as an investigation conducted to answer a specified conservation-related question using a statistically valid design, while employing farm-scale equipment on farm fields. Specifically, a valid study design will use an appropriate number of replications and statistical analysis of results. To the extent NRCS funds research projects through CIG, the Agency will only fund research projects that stimulate innovative approaches to natural resource management in conjunction with agricultural production. NRCS will accept proposals under this notice for single or multiyear projects, not to exceed three years, submitted by eligible entities from California. Eligible entities include Indian Tribes, State and local units of government, non-governmental organizations, and individuals. Proposals will be screened for completeness and compliance with the provisions of this notice. Incomplete and/or noncompliant proposals will be eliminated from competition, and notification of elimination will be sent to the applicant. Complete proposals received by applicable deadlines will be evaluated by a technical peer review panel based on the Proposal Evaluation Criteria identified in the instructions in section V.B. Proposals, along with their associated technical peer review, will then be forwarded to the California Review Board. The California Review Board will make its recommendations for project approval to the NRCS State Conservationist who will make the final selections. C. Innovative Conservation Projects or Activities For the purposes of CIG, the proposed innovative project or activity must promote environmental protection or natural resources enhancement, and encompass development and pilot field testing, on-farm research and demonstration, evaluation, and/or implementation of: • Conservation adoption incentive systems, including market-based systems; or • Promising conservation technologies, practices, systems, procedures, or approaches. Projects or activities under CIG must comply with all Federal, State, and local regulations throughout the duration of the project and: • Make use of proven technology or a technology that has been studied sufficiently to indicate a high probability for success; • Demonstrate, evaluate, or verify environmental (soil, water, air, plants, energy and animal) effectiveness, utility, affordability, and usability of conservation technology in the field; • Adapt conservation technologies, management, practices, systems, procedures, approaches, and incentive systems to improve performance, and encourage adoption, • Introduce conservation systems, approaches, and procedures from another geographic area or agricultural sector; or • Demonstrate transferability of knowledge. D. State Component California CIG Criteria • All projects need to result in technology or methods that can be used to augment agency technical guidance; be designed with an understanding of NRCS practice standards, pertinent assessment tools, and planning criteria. For NRCS technical reference materials please visit the California electronic Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) at Soil Health: • Develop basic technology (best management practices) to improve understanding and monitoring for landowners in regards to adaptation strategies and management practices for cropping systems affected by drought to address salinity build up and dynamics in California soils. • Demonstrate integrated systems with practices and management for increasing soil organic matter in high-intensity vegetable production. • Demonstrate and promote innovative management systems designed to improve soil health in annual or perennial crop production. • Demonstrate and promote low water use cover crops for use in annual or perennial cropping systems. • Demonstrate how improved soil health can improve overall irrigation efficiency. • On forestlands, demonstrate the use of a suite of conservation practices to improve soil health (site quality) that can improve long-term forest productivity. Water Conservation: All proposals should demonstrate understanding of the barriers to adoption of proposed strategies or tools as well as challenges of integrating data from tools, and explain an innovative approach to overcome these barriers and challenges. • Demonstrate practices or suites of practices that capture maximum natural precipitation via optimization of infiltration across the landscape. Infiltration may occur via practices at point of contact, or by strategies that allow flood flows in natural waterways and/or accelerated runoff to infiltrate in cropland. Proposals should describe how they will document measurable reduction in the need for supplemental irrigation. • Demonstrate innovative ways of designing/redesigning and managing irrigation systems so that when surface water is available it may be used, but when surface water is not available existing groundwater supplies may be substituted. Proposals should address any issues associated with surface supply policies, water rights, and downstream impacts. Water Quality: • Demonstrate how technologies like IWM, bioreactors, biological control of pests, and vegetated ditches can be used in conservation systems to reduce the amount of nutrients, pesticides and sediment leaving irrigated cropland. • Demonstrate and develop implementation criteria and guidance for new and innovative systems to improve rates, timing and uniformity of manure applications. • Demonstrate and develop grazing management prescriptions and conservation systems that improve water quality on rangelands and/or pasture. • Demonstrate and develop forest management prescriptions using a suite of conservation practices that improve water quality on forestlands. • Ground truth/calibrate NRCS tools such as the Water Quality Index for Agriculture. • Demonstrate how pollinator habitat could also function for water quality (runoff avoidance, erosion control in hilly areas, water conservation through increased infiltration). • Develop systems to better manage nitrogen fertilization to reduce nitrate leaching potential into groundwater. • Demonstrate methods to utilize nitrates in groundwater as sources of fertilizer for agricultural purposes. • Demonstrate and develop implementation criteria and guidance for reducing salinity (TDS) in water discharged from specialty crop production. Water Quantity: • Demonstrate and develop implementation criteria and guidance for new and innovative methods or procedures for on-farm irrigation flow measurement used for irrigation scheduling; or irrigation performance evaluation. • Demonstrate and develop implementation criteria and guidance for forest vegetation management practices designed to increase water quantity and/or longer release of water downstream while maintaining ecosystem services of water quality, soil health, pest resilience and wildlife. • Demonstrate and develop implementation criteria and guidance for new and innovative irrigation scheduling tools, methods or systems. • Demonstrate and develop implementation criteria and guidance for new and innovative subsurface drip irrigation system performance evaluation. • Develop, demonstrate and evaluate rangeland conservation practices and livestock management prescriptions that improve water quality and increase effective water retention and storage on rangelands. • Develop and evaluate innovative tools or methodologies NRCS and others can use to encourage producers to adopt improved irrigation management. Plant Quality: • Develop for the CA Forest Health Scorecard, a minimum set of forest health indicators, by forest type, for planned forest stocking to support both ecosystem services (soil health, water quality, pest resilience and wildlife) and economic viability. Oak Woodland Health: • Demonstrate or document effective oak woodland treatments implemented with Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) financial assistance that can be used to update NRCS standards and specifications for Practice 666 – Forest Stand Improvement and/or Practice 645 – Upland Wildlife Habitat Management. • Development of decision support tools to guide resource assessment and site selection potential for successful use of Practice 666 – Forest Stand Improvement and/or Practice 645 – Upland Wildlife Habitat Management to improve oak woodland health and wildlife habitat. Air Quality & Climate Change: • Demonstrate practical methods for amending cropland, pasture or rangeland soil with organic soil additives (e.g. compost or biochar) to increase soil water holding capacity and soil organic matter content. Projects must provide monitoring methods for collecting data to estimate potential reduced ambient greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; carbon sequestration; or soil decontamination benefits. • Demonstrate practical adaptation strategies for crop systems affected by drought to address disconnects between flowering and pollination; or other climate change impacts. Example: Modification of typical pollinator hedgerow plant mixes to increase native pollinator and honey bee resilience to changes in flower opening timing. • Demonstrate benefits of conservation tillage and monitoring methods/technology for collecting data to estimate potential benefits such as improved soil water holding capacity and increased soil organic matter as drought adaption strategies; reduced fuel use; increased carbon sequestration; or reduced GHG emissions. • Evaluate and document rangeland conservation practices to reduce greenhouse gasses (GHGs) • Demonstrate the transferability and practicality of infrared technology, aerial imagery or other innovative peer reviewed technologies currently available that provides real time data for use toward planning conservation practices that will reduce emissions. • Evaluate existing systems or technology that can quantify emissions reductions to evaluate applications of on-farm pesticide, fertilizer applications or tillage operations toward monitoring resource concern improvements using GIS or other tools. • Demonstrate proven technology systems used to reduce carbon based fossil fuels that can be used to address NRCS air quality resource concerns. • Review Practice Standards, Specifications and job sheets to assess practicality for incorporating the use of infrared, aerial imagery or other innovative peer reviewed technologies currently available for evaluating impacts on air quality by farming operations. Energy Conservation: • Evaluate and demonstrate reductions of on-farm greenhouse gas emissions through the use of on-farm renewable energy systems (e.g. hydropower, solar, geothermal, biomass gasification, and/or wind) that displace fossil fuel based energy. • Develop and/or demonstrate innovative implementation systems to increase on-farm energy efficiency by achieving greater use of energy audits that address both headquarters (buildings, equipment) and landscape (management practices) level operations and an increase in adoption of energy efficiency equipment upgrades. • Evaluate and demonstrate irrigation related energy savings through the use of improved irrigation system and management technologies. • Develop and/or demonstrate innovative implementation systems to increase energy savings through adaptive management cropping systems that utilize crop rotations that include legumes and grasses in long term no-till systems that will increase nutrient cycling through enhanced soil biological activity. Waste Recycling- Resource Conservation • Evaluate and demonstrate the technologies for recycling excessive biomass waste with the creation of on-farm/in-forest products (e.g. biochar, gasification, energy products and/ or remanufacturing). • Develop and/or demonstrate innovative biomass recycling systems through a waste management system plan or equivalent to increase the conservation benefits of fire hazard reduction and/or decrease the cost of installing conservation practices by the salvage of unwanted biomass created by a conservation practice. • Evaluate and document the relevant issues associated with using unused/unwanted biomass and the desired retention qualifications or conservation thresholds associated with wildlife, fire hazard and plant, water and soil quality. • Develop and/or demonstrate the California use of the National Conservation Practice 633- Waste Recycling standard, its considerations and conservation guidelines for forestland biomass recycling, energy use and/or reduction and at least one example of an in-forest waste recycling specification, job sheet and a waste management system plan or equivalent. Wildlife: • Calibrate the Stream Visual Assessment Protocol (SVAP) for different aquatic ecosystems in California. • Develop strategies to integrate wildlife habitat management into the agricultural working lands matrix to promote holistic, ecosystem-based conservation plans that support the suite of ecosystem services. • Demonstrate cost, effectiveness, and durability of alternatives or modifications to wood fence corner posts that provide raptor perches. • Demonstrate cost, effectiveness, and durability of alternatives or modifications to capping open pipes used in NRCS conservation practices, to reduce trapping of birds and other wildlife. • Development of CA Ecological Site Description Database of wildlife species associated with ESDs at the Land Resource Unit (LRU) including species recognized as obligate, focal, keystone and/or “drivers” of plant communities. • Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of grazing as a sage-grouse habitat management tool in meadows and sage-brush communities. • Document the benefits to other wildlife species of improving native pollinator and honey bee habitat. • Develop strategies to better distribute forage mixes as a ways to improve habitat and overall native pollinator and honey bee fitness. Examples: integrate almond grower relevant plants and forage into existing pollinator forage mixes as a way to improve pollinator habitat in size and scope for both native pollinators and honey bee; increase the availability of plant and forage mixes relevant to native pollinators and honeybees before and after almond bloom. • Document the benefits to wildlife, particularly amphibians and reptiles, f



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