WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden-Harris administration and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) joined public- and private-sector partners to announce nearly $91 million in grants through the America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC). The 55 new grants announced will support landscape-scale conservation projects in 42 states, three U.S. territories and for 14 tribal nations, leveraging $50.7 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of about $141.7 million.
ATBC grants support projects that conserve, restore and connect habitats for wildlife while improving community resilience and access to nature. The competitive grant awards were made possible with funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, other federal conservation programs and private sources. The challenge is a partnership between NFWF and the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Defense, and Native Americans in Philanthropy. Additional support this year was provided by the Bezos Earth Fund.
“Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community in America,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Through the America the Beautiful Challenge, we are investing in projects that advance collaborative conservation utilizing the best available science, innovative practices, and Indigenous Knowledge to help conserve and protect our lands and waters. This work will create jobs, strengthen our economy, address equitable access to the outdoors, and help tackle the climate crisis.”
“The inaugural year of the America the Beautiful Challenge shows what’s possible when partners go all-in on a collaborative approach to providing resources for locally led restoration efforts,” said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of NFWF. “These grants will support voluntary landscape-scale conservation efforts that will restore fish and wildlife habitats across the nation and build a brighter future for all of us.”
“Restoring and maintaining 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands and conserving hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural and private lands is a task too large for any one organization to do alone,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “That is why we have long worked with a wide array of partners and our co-stewardship agreements with tribal nations help bridge the gap between what we can accomplish ourselves and the work we all know needs to get done together. These grants help make those connections possible”
“The 2022 America the Beautiful Challenge grants support the long-term sustainability and resilience of Department of Defense (DOD) missions in the Georgia and Fort Huachuca Sentinel Landscapes and exhibit the valuable collaboration occurring across local, state, and federal partners,” said Paul Cramer, Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment. “DOD will continue supporting activities through the streamlined America the Beautiful Challenge to safeguard critical testing and training missions at installations across the country, all while protecting valuable habitats and accelerating national security strategies.”
To streamline and centralize access to these funds, NFWF and partners worked together to establish the ATBC in May 2022 as a “one-stop-shop” competitive grant program for landscape-scale conservation and restoration projects that implement existing conservation plans across the nation. The 2022 ATBC request for proposals received an unprecedented response, with applicants submitting 527 proposals requesting a total of $1.1 billion. The grant slate announced today addresses about 10 percent of this overall level of demand, illustrating how much impactful conservation work is ready and waiting for investments like these.
The grants announced will enable states, tribal nations, U.S. territories, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and other grantees to develop and implement multi-jurisdictional, high-priority restoration projects on both public and private lands. The program is intended to encourage the development and implementation of diverse and comprehensive landscape-level projects. Overall, the projects are expected to:
- Improve or remove more than 250 miles of fence to benefit wildlife
- Manage more than 130,000 acres of fire-dependent habitat
- Remove or improve more than 57 barriers to fish and aquatic organism passage
- Reconnect more than 1,300 miles of stream or river
- Improve management of more than 26 million acres, including grasslands with bison to provide ecological, cultural and spiritual healing
- Restore more than 1,900 acres of wetlands
The ATBC includes an emphasis on supporting tribal access to grant funding for restoration, conservation and capacity-building, and seeks projects that incorporate Indigenous traditional knowledge in planning and implementation. The number of proposals received from tribes in 2022 far exceeded expectations and demonstrated high demand and clear need for the funding. Ultimately, about one third of the 2022 grants and funding will support projects implemented by tribes, representing an unprecedented level of funding dedicated to tribally led projects for a single grant program at NFWF in recognition that tribal land stewardship is invaluable to conservation. This includes the largest-ever grant made by the foundation to a tribe.
“Many global philanthropic investments in Indigenous conservation efforts neglect U.S. based tribes,” said Erik Stegman, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy. “Despite underfunding, tribes consistently demonstrate that they are the best stewards of their lands and waterways, using Indigenous ecological knowledge and their unique legal and political relationship with the U.S. government.”
The ATBC consolidates funding from multiple federal agencies and the private sector, enabling applicants to develop and pursue large-scale or complex locally led projects that collaboratively address shared priorities across public and private lands.