Thursday, August 13, 2009

Soliciting the Best of the Nation’s Creative Conservation Thinkers

The Endowment is in the midst of implementing a new program in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) made possible by a new Grants Leveraging Category contained within the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grants Program (CIG). Through a pending Request for Proposals process the Endowment is seeking to identify projects and partners for implementation under the Endowment’s successful 2009 CIG submission entitled, “Healthy Watersheds through Healthy Forests Initiative.”

At this point we don’t know if NRCS will continue the Grants Leveraging Category of CIG going into the future. What we do know is that we found the thought process that led us to the winning 2009 submission -- with the support of input from a number of conservation professionals from across the country -- to be a stimulating way to bubble up important initiatives and priorities. In short, it allowed us to build on our original public input process as the Endowment set its strategic programmatic priorities. We’d like to engage you in continuing that process as we think ahead to 2010.

About CIG
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. 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, guides, and references or to the private sector. CIG does not fund research projects. It is a vehicle to stimulate the development and adoption of conservation approaches or technologies that have been studied sufficiently to indicate a likelihood of success, and to be candidates for eventual technology transfer or institutionalization. CIG funds projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations.

The Endowment Approach to CIG
Rather than approach the CIG program as a single applicant wishing to implement a specific project at the field level in one of the listed areas of National Concern – water resources; soil resources; atmospheric resources; grazing land; forest health or wildlife habitat – we believe our strength and core competence is found in developing a thematic approach to CIG that tests a single idea or technology in differing geographies. Thus, more rapidly proving the technology and vetting its use in a range of circumstances. For instance, under our 2009 grant we will be seeking to link up-stream water producers (e.g. forest landowners) with downstream water users/consumers ultimately by monetizing the water component of ecosystem services of forests. We anticipate deploying strategies and practices in two to three well-funded watersheds in different parts of the country to gain deep knowledge that can then be used by NRCS and others to transfer those learnings to other watersheds across the country.

Opening the Idea Box
As we think ahead to 2010 and a potential partnership with NRCS again (should such prove possible and be a direction approved by the Endowment’s Board) we want to engage you in bubbling-up those great ideas that meet the spirit of CIG and that would provide measurable results on the ground to advance forest sustainability and the needs of rural forest-reliant communities. We see this as a dialogue that extends the reach of the Endowment and helps us to benefit from the best of ideas from across the country. We offer two ways for you to engage. First, you may chose to just respond to this Blog or if you don’t wish your thoughts to be seen on the web, send your ideas directly to us – . Either way, we appreciate you taking the time to share with us so that we may consider ways to better target the Endowment’s work to achieve our important mission.

Let the creativity begin!

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