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Forestland Stewards: Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

Grant amount: US $50,000 - US $200,000

Deadline: The deadline for this grant has passed

Applicant type: Nonprofit Indigenous Group Government Entity College / University

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Preferred: Counties in Alabama: Cullman County, DeKalb County, Franklin County, Jackson County, Lawrence County, Madison County, Morgan County, Walker County, Winston County, Counties in Georgia: Chattooga County, Dade County, Walker County, Counties in Kentucky: Adair County, Bell County, Breathitt County, Clay County, Clinton County, Cumberland County, Estill County, Green County, Harlan County, Hart County, Jackson County, Knott County, Knox County, Laurel County, Lee County, Leslie County, Letcher County, Magoffin County, McCreary County, Metcalfe County, Owsley County, Perry County, Pulaski County, Rockcastle County, Russell County, Taylor County, Wayne County, Whitley County, Wolfe County, Counties in Tennessee: Anderson County, Bedford County, Campbell County, Cannon County, Claiborne County, Clay County, Coffee County, Cumberland County, Fentress County, Franklin County, Grundy County, Hamilton County, Lincoln County, Marion County, Marshall County, Maury County, Moore County, Morgan County, Overton County, Pickett County, Rutherford County, Scott County, Sequatchie County, Van Buren County, Warren County, White County, Williamson County Other eligible locations: Counties in Alabama: Blount County, Cherokee County, Cullman County, Etowah County, Fayette County Expand all

Location of residency: United States


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals within the Cumberland Plateau region that will help accelerate the restoration and enhancement of critical forest and freshwater habitats and associated wildlife species in the region. Funding is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA’s Forest Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, A​ltria Group and the American Forest Foundation’s Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Partnership. Up to $750,000 is expected to be available for grants this funding cycle.

Program Priorities

The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund supports the implementation of the Business Plan for the Forestland Stewards Initiative, which includes strategic priorities and goals to enhance forest ecosystems for the benefit of wildlife species and freshwater systems, while promoting and supporting working forests. The Fund also seeks to support the implementation of the Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan, developed by the Shortleaf Pine Initiative, for those portions of the historical shortleaf pine range that fall within the Fund’s geographic focal areas. The Fund is primarily focused on accelerating shortleaf pine ecosystem restoration (including shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak forests) and restoring freshwater habitat. 

Preference will be given to projects that effectively implement one or more of the strategies below to improve shortleaf pine, riparian forest and/or in-stream habitats and populations of associated wildlife species, such as bobwhite quail, prairie warbler, as well as fish, amphibians and other aquatic species: 

Establishing Shortleaf Pine:

NFWF will invest in projects that create new shortleaf pine habitat, including site preparation and planting on public and private lands. Priority will be given to projects in areas adjacent or in close proximity to existing shortleaf stands under conservation management, known habitat for associated threatened, endangered or at-risk species, and/or on protected lands likely to receive long-term management. Projects should:

  • ​​Describe all necessary site preparation for planting and summarize plans to promote long-term sustainability (e.g., mechanical and/or chemical treatments, prescribed burning, etc.).

Enhancing and Maintaining Shortleaf Pine Ecosystems

NFWF will invest in projects that maintain, expand, and promote the appropriate management of existing shortleaf pine forest systems on public and private lands, with emphasis on shortleaf pine and shortleaf-oak savanna ecosystems, through the use of prescribed fire and other management treatments, including, but not limited to the following: 

  • ​​Increase prescribed fire, including capacity, coordination and collaboration through fire teams, prescribed burn associations, or other appropriate strategies.
  • Provide technical assistance, training and/or other incentives to increase prescribed burning on private lands, including, but not limited to assisting private landowners with implementing financial assistance contracts through NRCS Environment Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Working Lands for Wildlife and other programs. 
  • Increase prescribed burning and management on public lands.
  • Pursue innovations and address specific barriers or roadblocks to prescribed burning, including strategies that may be transferred across the shortleaf pine range.

​​​​Where prescribed fire is not sufficient or practical for achieving shortleaf ecosystem restoration, the following additional strategies may be considered. Applicants must demonstrate how these strategies contribute towards long-term sustainable shortleaf ecosystem management, including how they will enable future prescribed burning as a management practice.

  • ​Planting native understory species, where appropriate, using most cost-efficient available strategies.
  • Thinning, invasive species removal and other alternative treatments.
  • Overstory treatments in mixed stands with a minor manageable component of shortleaf pine with a goal of moving these stands to a shortleaf-dominant condition.
  • Planting native understory species to improve wildlife habitat and support the application of prescribed fire.

Restoring and Enhancing Riparian Forests and Watersheds to Support At-Risk Aquatic Species

NFWF will invest in projects that restore riparian forests, implement best management practices along riparian corridors and/or in-stream restoration to improve watershed health, enhance freshwater habitat, and support at-risk aquatic species. Applicants seeking support for riparian or in-stream restoration projects should reference the Southeast Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for additional information on priority watersheds within the Cumberland Plateau program boundary. A variety of practices are eligible including, but not limited to:

  • ​Planting native riparian forest species.
  • Thinning and other forest management practices that will improve wildlife habitat. 
  • Implementing agricultural best management practices, including, but not limited to installing fencing and alternative watering systems to exclude livestock from streams.
  • Controlling invasive species, such as hemlock woolly adelgid, which threaten riparian forest health.
  • Removing or retrofitting stream barriers (low-head dams) and stream crossings (culverts, concrete fords), and/or other in-stream restoration practices to improve aquatic habitat within focal watersheds (View Map).
    • Note: Preference will be given to proposals that remove or retrofit high priority barriers or crossings within watersheds where barrier/crossing surveys and/or assessments are being developed or have been completed with an emphasis on lower cost/high gain methods in locations known to fragment habitat for priority species.

Expanding and Coordinating Technical Assistance and Outreach

NFWF will invest in projects that implement targeted outreach and assistance to increase private landowners engaged in shortleaf pine, riparian forest, and/or in-stream habitat stewardship practices. Proposals must estimate the amount of acres and/or miles to be restored or enhanced as a result of proposed technical assistance and outreach activities. Areas of interest include:

  • ​​Increasing outreach success: Support increased landowner outreach and technical assistance. Proposals should describe the current technical assistance capacity and explain plans for prioritizing, targeting and leveraging additional capacity. This should include how existing financial assistance programs will be utilized and how the increased technical assistance capacity will be coordinated among existing providers. Strategies may include:
    • ​​​​Hiring additional staff or contractors, based on demonstrated need. 
    • Developing landscape-based partnerships to implement innovative methods to expand on-the-ground restoration and protection activities on private lands, such as utilizing social marketing and preferences data to identify and better understand landowner motivations and barriers to sustainable forest management, implementation of agricultural best management practices, and/or riparian or in-stream habitat restoration.
    • Targeting outreach to landowners and working with NRCS and other partners to prioritize, plan and deliver financial assistance, such as EQIP, Working Lands for Wildlife and other programs to improve habitat and support at-risk species. 
  • ​Advancing new market-based and/or incentive programs: Pilot innovative, market-based solutions and incentive programs that stimulate landowner participation in shortleaf pine ecosystem recovery, agricultural best management practices, riparian forest restoration, and/or in-stream habitat restoration efforts to promote the achievement of shortleaf pine ecosystem, riparian forest, and/or in-stream ideal habitat conditions. Projects should effectively align with other existing private landowner initiatives or programs, such as US Fish & Wildlife Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program and USDA’s Working Lands for Wildlife, as appropriate.
  • Increasing participation in third-party forest certification: Increase participation in third-party forest certification programs to encourage sustainable forest management practices for shortleaf pine ecosystem and associated wildlife.

Conservation Easements

​​​​Conservation Easements: Limited funding is available to facilitate targeted conservation easement projects that protect existing, high quality shortleaf pine habitat and/or riparian forest, or key sites targeted for shortleaf pine ecosystem and/or riparian forest restoration that are part of larger forest restoration proposals. Preference will be given to projects that protect working forests. Requests for conservation easement funding should not exceed 20% of the total proposal request and should be for transaction costs, such as surveys, appraisal, environmental report, etc. In limited instances, highly leveraged projects will be considered for acquisition costs. Please contact Jon Scott to discuss specific land conservation projects.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes and educational institutions.
  • Projects within the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky, central Tennessee and northern Alabama and Georgia are eligible.



  • Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, businesses, unincorporated individuals and international organizations.
  • Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds  
    • NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. 
    • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts.

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