USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Bruce Knight says up to $1.7 million will be available through competitive grants to develop and evaluate technological tools for fish and wildlife habitat improvements.

“This grant competition provides an opportunity to enhance critical fish and wildlife habitat on private agricultural lands,” Knight said. “With most of the nation's nearly 1.4 billion acres of privately-owned land involved in agriculture, these grants underscore the importance of cooperative conservation efforts to enriching fish and wildlife habitat.”

Individual grants will range from $10,000 to $200,000. Selected applicants may receive up to 50 percent of the project cost. Applicants must provide nonfederal matching funds for at least 50 percent of the project cost, up to half of which may come from in-kind contributions. An exception allows for limited resource and beginning farmers and ranchers, tribes, and community-based organizations representing these groups to obtain up to 75 percent of project matching funds from in-kind contributions.

NRCS will distribute the funds through a national competitive process. Fiscal 2006 funds will come from NRCS' existing conservation operations budget. Potential applicants include state and local governments; federally recognized tribes; and non-governmental organizations, including colleges and universities. In their project proposals, applicants will be asked how they will develop, test, implement and transfer innovative solutions that benefit fish and wildlife on cropland, grassland, forestland, rangeland, riparian areas, wetlands, streams, rivers, vernal pools and areas where farmland and urban land meet.

Projects can be single- or multi-purpose and can run from one to three years.

For more information about the wildlife announcement of funding, visit the e-Grants Web site at http://www.grants.gov.