USDA has announced a request for proposals for Conservation Innovation Grants.

The CIG program is designed to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies.

“CIG rewards the creation of new and innovative approaches to managing the nation's natural resources more effectively and efficiently,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

“It allows applicants to come up with practical solutions to address conservation and resource management on a local, regional or national scale.”

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service administers CIG. For fiscal 2007, up to $20 million is available for the national CIG competition.

Funds for single- or multi-year projects, not to exceed three years, will be awarded through a nationwide competitive grants process with applications accepted from all 50 States, the Caribbean area (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and the Pacific Basin area (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) from all eligible government or non-government organizations or individuals, including federally recognized tribes.

Three CIG categories are available in fiscal 2007:

Natural Resource Concerns Category — up to $10 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG natural resource concerns.

This component was also offered in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Category — up to $5 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG natural resource concerns in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

This component was also offered in 2005 and 2006.

Technology Category — up to $5 million available for proposals addressing one or more of the CIG technology categories. This component was offered for the first time in 2006.

Applicants should explain how large a geographic area the project would benefit.

The projects may be watershed-based, regional, multi-state, or nationwide in scope. Applications should describe the use of innovative technologies or approaches, or both, to address a natural resource conservation concern or concerns.

Funding for CIG is made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

All proposed CIG projects must involve EQIP-eligible producers. CIG funds that are used to provide direct or indirect payments to individuals or entities to implement structural, vegetative or management practices are subject to the $450,000 EQIP payment limitation.

CIG is not a research program but rather a tool to stimulate the adoption of conservation approaches or technologies that have been studied sufficiently to indicate a high likelihood of success, and are likely candidates for eventual technology transfer.

CIG will fund projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations. Technologies and approaches that are commonly used in the geographic area covered by the application, and which are eligible for funding through EQIP, are not eligible for funding through CIG.

Proposed projects must conform to the description of innovative conservation projects or activities published in the Announcement of Program Funding.

CIG funds pilot projects and conservation field trials that can last from one to three years.

Grants for approved projects cannot exceed 50 percent of the total project cost. The federal contribution for a single project cannot exceed $1 million. At least 50 percent of the total cost of the project must come from non-federal matching funds (cash and in-kind contributions) provided by the grantee.

While NRCS will provide technical oversight for each project receiving an award, the grantee is responsible for providing the technical assistance required to successfully complete the project.

To view the Announcement of Program Funding or to apply visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig or http://www.grants.gov.

For more information about NRCS conservation programs visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov or visit the nearest USDA Service Center.