PARTNERS FOR WILDLIFE PROJECT RANKING CRITERIA
The Lower Mississippi River Ecosystem Team’s Private Lands Committee (Committee) has developed ranking criteria for the selection of Partners for Wildlife (Partners) projects. When developing these criteria, the Committee attempted to adhere to guidelines defining acceptable “tools” available for implementing the Partners program, and their respective funding sources, in accordance with Partners Notice 93-5. The primary purpose of this system is to prioritize those projects which will cumulatively result in meeting or exceeding annual wetland restoration targets for the Lower Mississippi River Ecosystem (such as those identified for FY 1996 within Partners Notice 95-6). The Committee intends to review all future Partners project proposals based upon these following criteria:
I.) First priority projects are those that reestablish, as nearly as practical, the original wetland vegetation and hydrology on at least 70 percent of the project site (e.g., bottomland hardwood reforestation on cropland or pasture which formerly consisted of that habitat-type). Non-wetland sites which provide benefits to threatened or endangered species, unique habitat-types, or are important for ecosystem restoration purposes (e.g., critical links in bottomland hardwood corridors connecting large wooded blocks, etc.) also fall into this category.
II.) Second priority projects consist of those which establish wetland vegetation and hydrology different from what existed prior to degradation, but at least partially replace the original habitat functions and values (e.g., creation of a moist-soil management area on cropland which formerly consisted of a different habitat-type).
All projects falling within either priority categories I or II will be ranked according to the following secondary criteria (in descending order of importance):
1.) Projects which are ongoing (typically larger, multi-year projects partially funded in previous years).
2.) Projects which benefit threatened or endangered species (direct benefits are most important).
3.) Projects which involve rare or unique habitat-types (e.g., cheniers, prairies, etc.).
4.) Projects which are located adjacent to (or directly benefit) federal or state refuges, or other permanently protected areas.
5.) Projects which are important for ecosystem restoration (corridors, etc.), or are located within large, unfragmented habitat target areas identified by the Lower Mississippi Valley Migratory Bird Working Group (assisted by the Vicksburg GIS team).
6.) Projects which are located adjacent to large blocks of unprotected habitat.
7.) Amount of cooperator contributions (in proposals which are similarly ranked according to the above criteria, this factor will be weighted in importance).
8.) Length of agreement (weighted factor if all other criteria are equal).
General Project Requirements
The Committee intends to select all projects meeting the first priority category requirements before considering any second priority project proposals. In general, projects which consist of conducting silvicultural practices on existing bottomland hardwood forestland (including any cut-over areas where stumps are still present), and projects which involve equipment purchases are not eligible. However, projects which consist of conducting silvicultural practices on existing pine forestland in the historic range of longleaf or shortleaf pine (including any cut-over areas where stumps are still present), and which strive to reintroduce longleaf or shortleaf pine will be eligible, but they may be ranked lower than other restoration projects which restore agricultural or pasture lands. The $10,000 spending limitation per landowner per year may be waived depending upon the importance of the project and the number of viable, competing project proposals received.
All Partners agreements involving reforestation of bottomland hardwoods should specify a minimum agreement duration of 25 years. Service biologists should verify the intent of cooperators to complete Partners restoration measures regardless of acceptance in other conservation programs (e.g. WRP, CRP, etc.); those cooperators without such intent are ineligible to participate in Partners due to logistical difficulties with reallocation of funds. Although those projects which are already accepted in CRP or WRP restoration agreements are still eligible to participate in Partners (with minimum agreement lengths of 20 to 30 years), such projects will be ranked lower than those not yet accepted in other conservation programs (with all other factors being equal). Aquatic projects will compete with terrestrial projects using the same criteria identified above.
LMR Guidelines for Combining Partners Projects with USDA Conservation Programs
* Projects accepted in other conservation programs will be ranked lower than those not yet accepted (with all other factors being equal).