Leveraging State Funds

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Leveraging State Funds
A recent example: When 1,575 acres were purchased to conserve the world-class wonder that is Virgin Falls State Natural Area, only $300,000 came from our State’s Land Acquisition Funds. State funding leveraged $1.5 million from Federal Endangered Species Funding and $800,000 from private contributions. Virgin Falls, on the Cumberland Plateau, comes out of a cave, drops 110’ and disappears into a cave, with no upstream or downstream.

Tennessee has been very successful leveraging limited conservation funds in the past. We anticipate greater leverage through these key partners:

  • EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund – Provides loans for water quality improvements for wastewater treatment upgrades with max term 20 years. An option allows use for land conservation. States match 20%. Administered by TDEC. Loans at ½ of market rate, term determined by State Treasurer’s office. May also issue bonds. States may file an intended use plan to allow use for purchasing watershed land, restoring watersheds and reducing flooding. Example: In NY, State loaned local governments funding to acquire drinking watershed lands. Will spend $1 billion over 10-years for land to avoid building a new filtration plant. Will protect the recharge area for the sole source aquifer for 2.6 million people.

  • EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Funds - DWSRFs provide loans to public water systems to finance infrastructure, including up to 15% for source water/land acquisition but only 10% to a single project. States must file an intended use plan and match 20%. Allotted to each state based on needs in the “Drinking Water Needs Survey.”

  • EPA’s Non-Point Source Program (Section 319) - Provides grants to projects that address nonpoint source pollution through best management practices. This may include land acquisition. Funding for 2016 - $164 million nationally.

  • USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - This program provides matching funds that land trusts may use for purchase of development rights on agricultural lands. Requires 50% non-federal match, 25% can come from landowner. Nationally, $499 million from 2003 – 2007 and $743 million between 2008 – 2012 to purchase conservation easements. In TN, only $6 million has been used to acquire 2000 acres between 1996 - 2011. (Had we received our fair share the total would be app. $25 million)

  • USDA’s Healthy Forest Reserve - This program helps to protect and restore forest lands. To qualify, conservation projects must benefit endangered species, improve biodiversity, or enhance carbon sequestration. This program funds restoration activities as well as permanent or 30-year easements.

  • USDA’s Community Forests - The grant program authorizes the Forest Service to provide financial assistance to local governments, Tribal governments, and qualified nonprofit entities to establish community forests that provide continuing and accessible community benefits.

  • USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program - This program enlists partner groups, such as land trusts, state agencies, tribes, and other related groups to coordinate conservation activities on a national or state scale. A land trust can acquire conservation easements using RCPP funds. Also, the program engages landowners and agricultural producers in conservation activities that improve water, soil, wildlife habitat, or other natural resources. NRCS provides cost-share funding while its partners coordinate activities in their area. This new program consolidates former regional programs, like the Chesapeake Bay Initiative, into one entity – funded with money from other conservation programs. The Secretary also designates eight ‘critical conservation areas’ that receive priority funding.

  • NPS’s Land and Water Conservation Fund - Stateside Grants require 50 percent match. Based on appropriations and population/need formulae. TN opted 60% for local grants and 40% to State projects. Additionally, federal Funding adds land to existing federal parks and refuges.

  • American Battlefield Protection Program - Funds are available to states/local communities to acquire threatened battlefield land

  • USFWS North American Wetlands Conservation Act - To acquire or restore wetlands for waterfowl and wetland migratory species. Awards small grants up to $75,000 and standard grants up to $1 million. Non-federal match required 1:1. The State’s Wetlands Fund has successfully leveraged $13,664,948 from NAWCA.

  • State Wildlife Grants - Matching grant program to implement recommendations from the TN Wildlife Conservation Strategy, required plan to keep species off the Endangered Species Act.

  • Endangered Species Act Recovery Land Acquisition - Grants for acquiring lands to support approved recovery goals for federally listed species. 25% non-federal match required or 10% if two states collaborate on a joint project.

  • Endangered Species Act Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants - HCP must be approved for the area of interest. Match is 25%. For joint projects with other State, the match is 10%. North Cumberlands HCP is pending approval, joint project with KY.

  • USFS Forest Legacy Program - Authorized by the USDA Forest Service and funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the program protects private forest land by purchasing conservation easements or land in fee from voluntary landowners. Requires 25% non-federal match.

  • Recreational Trails Program - RTP can purchase easements or land for trails.

  • Transportation Enhancements - Funds may acquire scenic easements or historic sites

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (1135) - $3,026,200 has been leveraged by TN Wildlife Resources Agency with the State Wetlands Fund (from TN Real Estate Transfer Fees)

Pending Funding in Congress:

  • New proposed funding is making its way through Congress and TN’s estimated share would be $21 million. Proposed by business interests in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Association, the Funds are intended to keep species off the Endangered Species Act. Because our threatened and endangered species are primarily located in rivers and along headwater streams, our new water fund would provide the anticipated Federal match of 25%.

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