The Conservation Almanac contains data from the following federal agencies and programs:
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was established in 1946 and is responsible for carrying out a variety of programs for the management and conservation of resources on 258 million surface acres, as well as 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate. The Conservation Almanac includes the following types of BLM land as permanently conserved: national conservation areas, national monuments, cooperative management, protection areas, national recreation areas, outstanding natural areas, forest reserves, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and areas of critical environmental concern. Data are collected from BLM's National Landscape Conservation System.
The Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) allows military installations to work with conservation groups as well as state and local governments to support defense readiness while protecting areas of land for conservation purposes in order to limit incompatible development or preserve biodiversity. By conserving land for environmental, agricultural and recreational uses, the military and its partners are able to protect training areas critical to national defense.
In 2002, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, Congress authorized Section 2684a of Title 10 United States Code (10 U.S.C. § 2684a), which allows the Military Services to enter into agreements with private conservation organizations or with state and local governments. These agreements allow the Service to cost-share the acquisition of conservation or restrictive-use easements and other interests in land from willing sellers. This is a way to preserve high-value habitat and limit incompatible development around military ranges and installations.
In FY 2014, Congress authorized language that now permits the use of REPI funds to match grant programs of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior.
Created in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is the largest source of federal money for park, wildlife, and open space land acquisition. Specifically, the LWCF provides funding to assist in the acquiring, preserving, developing and assuring accessibility to outdoor recreation resources, including but not limited to open space, parks, trails, wildlife habitat and other lands and facilities desirable for individual active participation. The program's funding comes primarily from offshore oil and gas drilling receipts, with an authorized expenditure of $900 million each year, while federal recreation fees, sales of federal surplus real property, and federal motorboat fuel taxes fund also contribute to the LWCF. Under this program, a portion of the money is intended to go to federal land purchases and a portion to the states as matching grants for land protection projects.
The federal side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund provides funding for federal agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management) to protect land within existing recreation areas, parks, forests, refuges and other federal units. LWCF funding provides the bulk of the money available for this purpose.
The state-level LWCF program provides a 50 percent match to states for planning, developing and acquiring land and water areas for natural resource protection and recreation enhancement. Funds are distributed to states based on population and need. Once the funds are distributed to the states, it is up to each state to choose the projects, though the National Park Service has final approval. Eligible grant recipients include municipal subdivisions, state agencies, and tribal governments, each of whom must provide at least 50 percent matching funds in cash or in-kind contributions and a detailed plan for the proposed project. Although stateside funds can be used for acquisition and/or recreation development, only land acquisition projects are tracked in the Conservation Almanac.
The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) essentially funds pass-through grants to states and local governments for land or easement acquisition in a state's coastal zone. CELCP was created in 2002 in order to protect coastal and estuarine areas with significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical or aesthetic values, or those that are threatened by conversion from their natural state to other uses. Lands purchased through this program must generally be maintained or restored to their natural state. Public access is a general requirement for this program, and the program requires a 1:1 non-federal match, which can including restoration and land value donation. CECLP is administered through NOAA, which is a sub-agency of the Department of Commerce.
The National Park Service was created in 1916 and comprises over 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.
The U.S. Forest Service was established in 1905 and is an agency of the Department of Agriculture. At present, it manages 193 million acres, including 154 national forests, 20 national grasslands, eight national monuments, 5.75 million acres of wilderness, and 158,000 miles of trail.
The Forest Legacy Program (FLP) was established in 1990 to provide federal funding to states to assist in securing conservation easements on forestlands threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. Fee transactions can also be supported under the program, either for the whole transaction or combined with easements to achieve a state's highest conservation goals. A state voluntarily enters the program by submitting an Assessment of Need (AON) to the Secretary of Agriculture for approval. These plans establish the lead state agency, the state's criteria for Forest Legacy projects, and Forest Legacy Areas (FLA) within which proposed Legacy projects must be located. Once the AON is approved, the state lead agency can submit up to three grants each year for projects within the forest legacy area. The federal government may fund up to 75 percent of project costs, with at least 25 percent coming from private, state or local sources.
The purpose of the Community Forest program, a competitive grant program, is to protect threatened forest land from conversion to non-forest uses and provide multiple benefits. Eligible participants are Indian Tribes, qualified nonprofit organizations (including land trusts), and local governments. Eligible lands are private forest lands at least five acres in size, at least 75 percent forested, suitable to sustain natural vegetation, and can provide both defined community benefits and allow public access. Community benefits are economic, ecological, educational and recreational. A 50 percent non-federal match is required. The amount of annual funding depends on an annual appropriation from Congress.
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidates the existing FRPP, WRP & GRP easement programs under a new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). This program would have two branches: a Wetlands easement division (new version of WRP) and an agricultural lands easements division (ALE), which would merge the functions of FRPP and GRP.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 consolidated the purposes of the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) into one easement program called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP is a voluntary program to help farmers and ranchers preserve their agricultural land and restore, protect, and enhance wetlands on eligible lands. Under the agricultural land easement component, NRCS provides matching funds to state, tribal, and local governments, and nongovernmental organizations with farm and ranch land protection programs to purchase permanent agricultural land easements. Under the wetland reserve easement component, NRCS protects wetlands by purchasing directly from owners a reserved interest in eligible land or entering into 30-year contracts on acreage owned by Indian Tribes, in each case providing for the restoration, enhancement, and protection of wetlands and associated lands. Wetland reserve easements may be permanent, 30-years, or the maximum duration authorized by State law. Over the course of the 2008 Farm Bill, WRP, GRP, and FRPP received an average of $691 million annually. The average annual funding available under the new ACEP program will be approximately $368 million annually, about 53 percent of the amount previously available under the repealed programs.
The Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) was esablished in 1978 and amended in 1996 to provide for the purchase of floodplain easements as an emergency response to natural disasters or other circumstances. Since 1996, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has purchased permanent floodplain easements on 1,418 properties, totaling 184,254 acres located in 36 states.
The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) was established in 1985 and repealed as part of the Agricultural Act of 2014. It provided matching funds to assist in the purchase of development rights to keep productive farm and ranch land in agricultural use. Grants were awarded by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to states, local governments and non-governmental entities on a competitive basis, according to national and state criteria and required up to a 50 percent non-NRCS match to cover the cost of the easement. Up to 25 percent of donated land value could be counted as the match.
The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) was a voluntary conservation program that emphasized support for working grazing operations, enhancement of plant and animal biodiversity, and protection of grassland under threat of conversion to other uses. Participants could voluntarily limit future development and cropping uses of the land while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices and operations related to the production of forage and seeding, subject to certain restrictions during nesting seasons of bird species that are in significant decline or are protected under Federal or State law. A grazing management plan was required for participants. The Almanac attempted to capture only permanent easements obtained through this program; however data gaps currently do not allow the separation of permanent and temporary easements. The program was also repealed as part of the Agricultural Act of 2014 and its purposes are included in the ACEP program (above).
The Wetlands Reserve Program was a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts. The NRCS goal was to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. This program offered landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection. The Almanac only captured permanent easements obtained through this program. The program was also repealed as part of the Agricultural Act of 2014 and its purposes are included in the ACEP program (above).
The National Wildlife Refuge System of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began over 100 years ago in 1903 when President Roosevelt designated the first wildlife refuge (Pelican Island in Florida). The National Wildlife Refuge System now includes more than 560 refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and other protected areas encompassing 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the remote Pacific. There is at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and territory.
Grants offered through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (authorized under section 6 of the Endangered Species Act) support participation in a wide array of voluntary conservation projects for candidate, proposed, and listed species.
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Land Acquisition Grants provide funding to states and territories explicitly for land acquisitions that complement approved HCPs. These grants are available only for land purchases that go above and beyond the conservation responsibilities that nonfederal partners already bear under the terms of the HCP. Specifically, the grants fund land acquisitions that complement but do not replace private mitigation responsibilities contained in HCPs; have important benefits for listed, proposed, and candidate species; and that have important benefits for the ecosystems that support those species.
Recovery Land Acquisition Grants provide funds to states and territories for the acquisition of habitat, through both fee and easement, in support of federally listed threatened and endangered species recovery. These funds must contribute to the implementation of a finalized and approved recovery plan for at least one species under the Endangered Species Act.
Each year, duck stamp (migratory bird and conservation stamps) revenues are deposited into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund along with appropriations from the Wetlands Loan Act of 1961, import duties from arms and ammunitions, receipts from refuge admission fees, receipts from the sale of refuge-land crops and refuge rights-of-way, and Federal Aid funds. Administered by the USFWS, the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund is used to acquire waterfowl breeding, wintering, and migration habitat needed for maintaining optimum migratory bird population levels and to achieve desirable migration and distribution patterns. The habitat areas, acquired in fee, easement, or other interests such as leases or cooperative agreements, become units of the National Wildlife Refuge System or Waterfowl Production Areas.
Established by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act of 1990, the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is a matching grant program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire, restore, and enhance the wetland ecosystems of coastal states and territories. Projects in states bordering the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific, and Great Lakes are eligible for funding of up to $1 million per fiscal year. The one exception is the state of Louisiana, which has its own coastal wetland program administered under the Act. Projects are given priority if consistent with the criteria and considerations outlined in the National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan; are located in states with dedicated funding programs to acquire coastal wetlands and open spaces; are located in maritime forests on barrier islands; benefit endangered species; encourage cooperative efforts among diverse partnerships; and benefit other ongoing conservation efforts.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) was passed in 1989 to provide matching grants for the acquisition, restoration, and enhancement of wetland ecosystems for the benefit of waterfowl and other wetland dependent migratory species. Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, grants are available to nonprofit organizations, state and local agencies, tribes, and private individuals in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Two types of grants are awarded; small grants for up to $75,000 and standard grants for up to $1 million. There is a 1:1 non-federal match requirement for each grant although the average match of successful proposals is over 2:1.
The Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act, was passed in 1937. The Wildlife Restoration Act provides grant funds to states, the District of Columbia and insular areas that have passed assent legislation. This means state legislation must be in effect and remain in effect restricting the use of revenue from license fees for use only by the fish and wildlife agency. Revenues from manufacturers' excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and arrow components go to the Wildlife Restoration Account. The interest earned on the account is transferred to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund. Import duties on firearms and ammunition are deposited in the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. This program is not comprehensively tracked in the Conservation Almanac.