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Grassland LIP: Application and Instructions

Attention: Deadline for Applications has been extended to February 1, 2013. Applications must be post-marked by that date to be considered eligible.

Purpose

The Landowner Incentive Program for Grassland Protection and Management is administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). This program has been successful in enrolling over 2,500 acres of high-quality grassland habitat into protection and management contracts. The program encourages private landowner participation in habitat management and protection by providing technical advice and financial incentives for the protection of at-risk wildlife and habitats, specifically grassland birds and their habitat. The DEC recognizes the assistance provided by Audubon New York, a recognized authority in ornithology and habitat conservation, in establishing this program.

DEC biologists and Audubon NY ornithologists have determined that grassland birds are a key statewide conservation focus. Because the vast majority of grassland habitat is privately owned, involving private landowners is the best way to ensure viable populations and long-term survival of grassland birds. This is also the most cost-effective way of protecting at-risk species, because it doesn't require the state to purchase and manage extensive land parcels.

If you are an eligible private landowner and are selected to receive a state assistance grant for the protection of grassland birds, DEC will provide you with technical assistance in the form of a Site-Management Plan (SMP).

View, print, or download the complete LIP Grassland Protection and Management Request for Applications (PDF) (564 kB) including the pre-application form (PDF) (191 kB).

Ecological and Geographical Focus

Financial assistance is currently available for the protection and management of grassland habitat on private land. The geographical range of the program is limited to the Grassland Bird Focus Areas.

Grassland focus areas were determined by analyzing the 2000 New York Breeding Bird Atlas data for grassland birds for the entire state. To further refine the focus areas, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Audubon NY conducted point counts during the spring and summer of 2005.

The target grassland bird species are: northern harrier, upland sandpiper, short eared owl, horned lark, sedge wren, vesper sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow's sparrow, bobolink, eastern meadowlark and savannah sparrows. The last three species listed are native grassland birds, and although their populations have declined significantly, they remain fairly widespread and abundant in New York; for now their populations appear secure. Consequently, DEC concentrated on the rarer species and larger unbroken expanses when determining the grassland focus areas.

What Applicants Need to Know

DEC has apportioned approximately one million dollars from its portion of State Wildlife Grants funding from the Department of the Interior, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, for new projects that protect and manage grassland bird habitat within the Grassland Bird Focus Areas.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible to apply for financial assistance, an applicant must be a Private Landowner and must own at least twenty-five acres of contiguous grassland (or shrubland the landowner is willing to convert to grassland) located within one of the Grassland Focus Areas. Private landowners having appropriate habitat on properties located just outside but contiguous to a focus area will be generally eligible to apply for grant funding under this program.

Private Landowner - is defined as and includes individuals, non-governmental organizations, and privately-owned businesses.

Private Land - is defined as any non-government owned land.

"Not-For-Profit Corporation" - means an organization formed pursuant to the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law and qualified for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Federal Internal Revenue Code. A not-for-profit (NFP) corporation must submit proof of incorporation (or equivalent documentation) from the NYS Department of State, and a charities registration number from the NYS Office of the Attorney General. Not-for-profit corporations must be up-to-date on their charities reporting requirements with the Attorney General's office.

Who is not eligible to apply?

Municipal agencies at all levels of government (federal, state, county, town, city, etc.) and any type of government-owned land is excluded from funding under this program. Acres of land already enrolled in this program or in similar incentives (e.g. USDA Farm Bill programs) are not eligible for funding. DEC employees and their immediate families are not eligible to apply for funding. Former DEC employees are not eligible to apply for funding within two years of leaving DEC employment.

Is there a minimum acreage requirement?

Yes. Unbroken or connected grassland parcels twenty-five acres and greater in size are eligible for funding. Scientific research has shown that grassland birds need large, open, and uninterrupted habitat patches to thrive. Parcels over 30 acres in size will receive priority points in DEC's project evaluation and scoring process. DEC's established project evaluation and scoring process is required to determine the best selection of eligible projects for funding.

Is there a minimum grant amount?

Grant amounts are based on the acreage of habitat accepted and enrolled into the program. The minimum grant amount corresponds to twenty-five acres, at a rate of $110/acre, paid over five years, or $13,750. Large unbroken parcels of high quality habitat are most desirable for species conservation.

How will selected landowners receive State assistance payments?

A landowner will receive annual contract payments only after performing the activities specified for that year in their SMP, and after a State representative has verified through an on-site inspection that the SMP tasks and activities have been completed.

What determines program payment rates?

DEC has calculated payment rates by evaluating the highest and best agricultural use for eligible properties, determined to be corn production. This is a standard method of evaluating fair property rental rates for conservation, and has been approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Private landowners that are selected to receive financial assistance under this program will be compensated at the rate of $110 or $113 per acre per year to conduct the prescribed site management. The higher rate will be applied for parcels of land located within 25 miles of large urban areas (populations of more than 100,000), reflecting higher soil rental rates near population centers.

Is there a landowner match requirement?

Yes, the payment rates described above have a 50 percent reduction factored in, in the form of reduced land-rental rates. This 50 percent reduction fully accounts for the landowner's match requirement.

Are project state-assistance contract payments taxable?

Yes, state assistance payments are taxable. The State Department of Taxation and Finance will send you a 1099 form for moneys you receive from this grant program. Landowners are advised to consult their tax advisor or accountant to determine their individual tax liability.

What is the project funding period?

Applicants selected to receive grant funding will be required to sign a state assistance contract that will carry a term of five years.

How will landowners be notified of a grant award?

If your application scores high enough to receive a grant award, you will be sent an official award letter from the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Shortly thereafter, DEC will send you a state assistance contract that will include a SMP and a contract payment schedule. You will be required to sign and return all required contract documents to DEC for final approval.

Are there other program requirements or information for the applicant?

Yes. The following eligibility requirements, criteria and information apply to all applicants:

  • Land must be privately owned. Landowners will be required to provide proof of ownership in the form of a deed if their pre-application scores high enough to be further reviewed under Stage 2 of the evaluation process. Landowners will be notified in writing by the DEC if their project scores high enough to continue on to Stage 2 evaluation, at which point the landowner will be required to submit a copy of a their deed.
  • Landowners must be willing to enter into a state assistance contract to receive contract payments. The contract will carry a five-year term and the landowner must perform all the activities identified in the contract SMP. Concurrent with signing a contract, landowners will also need to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that will be filed at the corresponding county clerk's office to indicate that the property is enrolled in a five-year habitat protection program.
  • Property must be located in one of the Grassland Focus Areas. Properties that have appropriate habitat and are contiguous but just outside of a focus area generally will be considered eligible. The focus areas include portions of the following counties: Allegany, Cayuga, Chemung, Clinton, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Otsego, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Suffolk, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Warren, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
  • Acres of land already enrolled in similar incentive programs (such as the Conservation Reserve Program and other USDA Farm Bill programs) are not eligible for this program. However, other acreage is eligible as long as the acreage has not been funded from a previous LIP grant round, or any other incentive program. Landowners currently under contract with DEC for enrolled acreage that is currently being managed as the result of a previous DEC LIP grant round, may apply for funding as long as the parcels are separate parcels that are not under contract with DEC or enrolled in other programs.
  • Landowners must allow DEC staff or their representatives to enter the eligible property at reasonable hours and after notification.
  • All not-for-profit (NFP) organizations must include their Federal Employer ID number and New York State Charities registration number with their pre-application. A NFP must also submit a Resolution of Support identifying the person authorized on behalf of the organization to submit an application and sign legal documents. This person will receive official notification from DEC about decisions regarding the NFP pre-application.
  • All privately-owned businesses must include their Federal Employer ID number. They must also submit a Resolution of Support Resolution of Support identifying the person authorized on behalf of the organization to submit an application and sign legal documents. This person will receive official notification from DEC about decisions regarding their application.
  • Once a proposal has been selected for funding, DEC will notify the landowner of the need to provide the information necessary to complete the state assistance contract. Landowners will be required to submit, within 30 business days of receipt of such notice, the following items:
    • Applicants that receive a grant award/contract will be subject to a vendor responsibility review by the DEC to ensure public dollars are being spent appropriately with responsible vendors. A vendor responsibility review will determine whether a potential vendor has the financial capacity, the legal authority, record of business integrity, and a satisfactory history of past performance. Applicants that receive a grant award of $100,000 or more will be required to complete a Vendor Responsibility Questionnaire. Additional information on how to complete the Vendor Responsibility Questionnaire can be found on the New York State Office of the State Comptroller website (see the link above in the right-hand column).
    • A signed and notarized NY state assistance contract which will include a DEC approved SMP, payment schedule, and standard State and DEC contract clauses). The grant recipient will be subject to all appropriate state rules, regulations and reporting requirements.
  • Properties with multiple owners are eligible to apply. However, the owners must designate a lead owner (applicant) on the pre-application form. The lead applicant will be the sole owner responsible for implementing the SMP and to receive annual contract payments. If a project is selected to receive grant funding, all owners of the property must agree to one of the following two options before a contract can be fully approved by DEC and any other applicable state agency:
    • All landowners listed on the deed must sign both the state assistance contract and the MOA. However, one individual landowner must be designated in writing to DEC as the lead applicant. A document designating the lead applicant must be signed by all persons on the deed before DEC and all other applicable state agencies can fully approve a contract; OR
    • All landowners listed on the deed will need to sign a Power of Attorney - the New York State Short Form (see link above in the right-hand column for a copy of this form) designating a lead applicant to act on their behalf and sign the contract and MOA. Only the person designated as the lead applicant will sign the contract and MOA.

What is a Site-Management Plan (SMP)?

A SMP is a document that details management activities that a landowner must perform on the proposed project site. If a project is ultimately selected to receive grant funding, the DEC will work with the landowner to complete a SMP which will be included in a state assistance contract. The SMP provides the landowner with clear instructions for management of their grassland habitat, and provides DEC with a way to track and evaluate the progress of a project. State assistance contract payments will be provided to a landowner only after DEC or its representative(s) verifies that the work performed by the landowner complies with the SMP.

What kind of activities will enrolled landowners need to perform as specified in the SMP?

Eligible private landowners will be required to manage their land to benefit grassland birds. Required management will include not mowing the enrolled grassland between April 23 and August 15 (the nesting season), mowing a portion of the grassland after the nesting season and removing some shrubs, certain invasive species, trees, and hedgerows. In addition, some seeding may be needed. Activities that will not be compatible with this program are high density rotational grazing; production of row crops; wind energy production; and mining on enrolled acres. Excessive disturbances, such as frequent travel through the field or loud noises, such as fireworks or frequent motorized vehicle and ATV use, are also not compatible with the goals of the program. These activities are generally compatible outside of the enrolled fields as long as they do not cause an excessive disturbance and may need to be reviewed on an individual basis. Hunting and trapping legal game during the applicable seasons are generally compatible with grassland bird management. All management requirements will be specified in the SMP.

What are Best Management Practices (BMPs) for grassland bird management?

BMPs are habitat management guidelines used by persons wishing to improve grasslands or create suitable grassland habitat. They were developed for the Landowner Incentive Program for Grassland Protection and Management, but can be applied to any grassland. These guidelines form the basis of the SMPs, and may be found on the "Best Management Practices for Grassland Birds" page.

Minority and Women Business Enterprises

Non-governmental organizations, privately owned businesses and not-for-profit corporations must comply with Article 15A of the Executive Law, Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises/Equal Employment Opportunity. Please review the additional information on M/WBE and EEO requirements.

Procurement of Contractors/Subcontractors

Not-for-profit corporations must follow procurement policies that ensure prudent and economical use of public money. Failure to comply with these requirements could jeopardize your annual contract payments.

Iran Divestment Act

By submitting an application in response to this solicitation or by assuming the responsibility of a Contract awarded hereunder, Applicant/Grant Recipient (or any assignee) certifies that it is not on the "Entities Determined To Be Non-Responsive Bidders/Offerers Pursuant to The New York State Iran Divestment Act of 2012" list ("Prohibited Entities List") posted on the OGS website (see the link above in the right-hand column) and further certifies that it will not utilize on such Contract any subcontractor that is identified on the Prohibited Entities List. Additionally, the Applicant/Grant Recipient is advised that should it seek to renew or extend a Contract awarded in response to the solicitation, it must provide the same certification at the time the Contract is renewed or extended. During the term of the Contract, should the Department of Environmental Conservation (Department) receive information that a person (as defined in State Finance Law §165-a) is in violation of the above-referenced certifications, the Department will review such information and offer the person an opportunity to respond. If the person fails to demonstrate that it has ceased its engagement in the investment activity which is in violation of the Act within 90 days after the determination of such violation, then the Department shall take such action as may be appropriate and provided for by law, rule, or contract, including, but not limited to, seeking compliance, recovering damages, or declaring the Contractor in default.

The Department reserves the right to reject any bid/application, request for assignment, renewal or extension for an entity that appears on the Prohibited Entities List prior to the award, assignment, renewal or extension of a contract, and to pursue a responsibility review with respect to any entity that is awarded a contract and appears on the Prohibited Entities list after contract award.

To Obtain a Landowner Incentive Program Pre-Application

Print or download a Pre-Application (PDF) (191 kB). You can also view a sample of a completed pre-application (PDF) ( 282 kB) for reference; OR

E-mail the LIP Grasslands Program to request an application; OR

Call 518-402-8943 to request an application.

Interested applicants must complete and submit a pre-application post-marked by January 15, 2013.

Documents you must include with your pre-application are:

  1. Map(s) of project area. Please include a locator map(s) of the project area(s) within NY State, and map(s) or aerial photographs of actual project area.
  2. Original, signed letters of permission from all involved landowners. Copies of deeds are not required at this time, however proof of property ownership will be required if an application scores high enough to proceed to Stage 2. All deeds will be verified by DEC through the contracting process.
  3. Documentation for No. 3 apply to not-for-profit organizations only: A copy of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt determination letter from the IRS with Federal EIN number, NYS charities registration number, and a copy of a Resolution of Support (PDF)(12 kB). All resolution documents must be submitted to DEC within 30 days after the pre-application deadline or the pre-application will be disqualified.
  4. Documentation for No. 4 apply to privately-owned businesses only: A copy of a Resolution of Support (PDF)(12 kB). All resolution documents must be submitted to DEC within 30 days after the pre-application deadline or the pre-application will be disqualified. Applicants must also provide their Federal EIN number.

Please send your signed, completed pre-application form and additional required documents to:

NYSDEC
Bureau of Wildlife
Attn: LIP Grassland Protection and Management Program
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4754