[Federal Register: February 22, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 35)]
[Page 9139-9143]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Fiscal Year 2006 Landowner Incentive Program (Non-Tribal Portion) 
for States, Territories, and the District of Columbia

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of request for proposals and response to comments on 
National Review Team Ranking Criteria Guidance.


SUMMARY: The Service is requesting proposals for Fiscal Year 2006 
funding under the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) for conservation 
grants to States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the 
United States Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and 
American Samoa (hereafter referred to collectively as States), and 
Tribes. Also, this notice provides an analysis of public comments and 
changes made to the Landowner Incentive Program National Review Team 
Ranking Criteria Guidance for Tier 2 Proposals. The Service has 
addressed the Tribal component of LIP under a separate Federal Register 

DATES: The Service must receive your grant proposal no later than April 
24, 2006.

ADDRESSES: States must submit their proposals in electronic format 
(e.g. Word, Word Perfect or PDF files). The electronic files should be 
sent to Kim_Galvan@fws.gov. In addition, hard copy grant proposals 
must be submitted to the Service's Regional Offices of the Division of 
Federal Assistance at the addresses listed below in SUPPLEMENTARY 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Galvan or Genevieve Pullis 
LaRouche, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Federal 
Assistance, 4401 North Fairfax Drive--Mailstop MBSP 4020, Arlington, VA 
22203-1610; telephone 703-358-2420; e-mail 
kim_galvan@fws.gov or Genevieve_LaRouche@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Service will award grants on a 
competitive basis to State fish and wildlife agency programs to 
enhance, protect, or restore habitats that benefit federally listed, 
proposed, or candidate species, or other at-risk species on private 
lands. A copy of the FY 2006 LIP Guidelines can be obtained at http://federalaid.fws.gov/lip/lipguidelines.html
 or from the following 

Regional Offices:

Region 1. Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, and 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 911 NE., 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181. 
LIP Contact: Dan Edwards, 503-231-6128; dan_edwards@fws.gov.

Region 2. Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Avenue, SW., Suite 9019, P.O. Box 1306, 
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103-1306, LIP Contact: Penny Bartnicki, (505) 
248-7465; penny_bartnicki@fws.gov.

Region 3. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, 
and Wisconsin

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, One Federal 
Drive, Fort Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056. LIP Contact: Ann Schneider, 
(612) 713-5146; ann_schneider@fws.gov.

[[Page 9140]]

Region 4. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, 
Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, 
and the U.S. Virgin Islands

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 
30345. LIP Contact: Bob Gasaway, (404) 679-4169; bob_gasaway@fws.gov.

Region 5. Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, 
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode 
Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035-9589. LIP 
Contact: Colleen Sculley, (413) 253-8509; colleen_sculley@fws.gov.

Region 6. Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South 
Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, 
Colorado 80225-0486. LIP Contact: Otto Jose, (303) 236-8156; 

Region 7. Alaska

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503-6199. 
LIP Contact: Nancy Tankersley, (907) 786-3631; 

California/Nevada Office (CNO). California, Nevada

    Regional Director, Division of Federal Assistance, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2606, Sacramento, CA 95825. LIP 
Contact: Becky Miller, (916) 978-6185; becky_a_miller@fws.gov.
    The Service will distribute any LIP funds made available in the FY 
2006 budget in the same manner as that described in this notice. The 
Service requests that the States number the pages in their proposals 
and limit each proposal to no more than 50 pages, inclusive of 
attachments. We will not accept facsimile grant proposals, and all 
parts of the grant proposal must be received by the deadline listed in 
DATES. Submit electronic copies to the e-mail address identified in 
ADDRESSES and hard copies to the appropriate regional office listed 


    On September 16, 2005, the Service published a notice in the 
Federal Register (70 FR 54765) requesting comments on the proposed 
revisions to the National Review Team Ranking Criteria Guidance for 
Tier 2 LIP Grant Proposals. The Service received 28 written responses 
by the close of the comment period on October 31, 2005. The responses 
came from 25 State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, one nongovernmental 
organization, and two private citizens. We received a total of 21 
substantive comments regarding the ranking criteria guidance. Based on 
these substantive comments, we made a few additional revisions to the 
ranking criteria. Overall, we believe these changes to the ranking 
criteria guidance will allow reviewers to more fairly assess the merit 
of Tier 2 LIP grant proposals. We provide below the Final National 
Review Team Ranking Criteria Guidance for Tier 2 LIP Grant Proposals, 
and responses to the substantive comments that we received.

Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) National Review Team Ranking Criteria 
Guidance for Tier 2 Grant Proposals


    1. Overall--Proposal provides clear and sufficient detail to 
describe the State's use of awarded funds from the LIP, and the State's 
program has a high likelihood for success. (5 points total).
    a. Proposal is easy to understand and contains all elements 
described in 522 FW 1.3C: Need; Objective; Expected Results and 
Benefits; Approach; and Budget. (0-2 pts).
    b. Proposal, taken as a whole, demonstrates that the State can 
implement a Landowner Incentive Program that has a high likelihood for 
success in conserving at-risk species on private lands (for example, 
agency support for program, dedicated staff in place to implement 
program, priorities clearly identified, processes in place to implement 
program, past successes, etc.). (0-3 pts).
    2. Need--Proposal describes the urgency for implementing a LIP. 
States should describe how their LIP is a part of a broader scale 
conservation effort at the State or regional level. (5 points total).
    a. Proposal clearly describes the urgency of need for a LIP to 
benefit at-risk species in the State. (0-2 pts).
    b. Proposal clearly describes conservation needs for targeted at-
risk species that relate directly to objectives and conservation 
actions described in other sections of the proposal. (0-3 pts).
    3. Objectives--Proposal provides clear objectives that specify 
fully what is to be accomplished. (6 points total).
    a. The objectives of the proposal describe discrete obtainable and 
quantifiable outputs to be accomplished (for example, the proposal 
identifies the number of acres of wetlands or other types of habitat, 
the number of stream miles to be restored, the number of landowners 
served, the number of management plans developed, etc.) (0-3 pts).
    b. The objectives of the proposal describe discrete, obtainable and 
quantifiable outcomes to be accomplished (for example, the proposal 
identifies the number of at-risk species whose habitat within the State 
will be improved; the percentage increase in a population(s) of one or 
more at-risk species on LIP project sites; the increase in number of 
individuals of one or more at-risk species on LIP project sites, etc). 
(0-3 pts).
    4. Expected Results and Benefits--Proposal clearly describes how 
the activities will benefit targeted at-risk species. (13 points 
    a. Proposal describes by name the species-at-risk to benefit from 
the proposal. (0-2 pts).
    b. Proposal identifies habitat requirements for these targeted at-
risk species. (0-3 pts).
    c. Proposal makes clear connections between the conservation 
actions proposed and expected benefits for species and habitats (i.e., 
describes how conservation actions will result in benefits). (0-3 pts).
    d. Proposal describes the short-term benefits for at-risk species 
to be achieved within a 5- to 10-year period. (0-2 pts).
    e. Proposal describes the long-term benefits for at-risk species to 
be achieved beyond 10 years. (0-3 pts).
    5. Approach--Proposal clearly describes how program objectives, 
contractual and fiscal management, and fund distribution will be 
accomplished and monitored. (24 points total).
    Program Implementation--(6 points total).
    a. Proposal describes the conservation priorities for the State's 
LIP. (0-2 pts).
    b. Proposal describes the types of conservation projects and/or 
activities to be undertaken to address these priorities. (0-2 pts).
    c. Proposal describes how conservation projects and/or activities 
will implement portions of conservation plans at a local, state, 
regional, or national scale, including the State's Comprehensive 
Wildlife Conservation Strategy. (0-2 pts).

[[Page 9141]]

    Fiscal Administrative Procedures--Proposal describes adequate 
management systems for fiscal and contractual accountability. (3 points 
    d. Processes to ensure contractual and fiscal accountability 
between the State and participating landowners. (0-2 pts).
    e. Proposal indicates that the State has an approved legal 
instrument to enter into agreements with landowners. (0-1 pt).
    System for Fund Distribution--Proposal describes the State's fair 
and equitable system for fund distribution. (9 points total).
    f. System described is inherently fair and free from bias. (0-2 
    g. Proposal describes State's selection or ranking criteria and 
process to select projects (include copies of any relevant ranking or 
selection forms). (0-3 pts).
    h. State's ranking or selection criteria are adequate to select 
projects based on conservation priorities identified in the proposal. 
(0-2 pts).
    i. Project proposals will be (or were) subject to an objective 
selection procedure (for example, internal ranking panel, diverse 
ranking panel comprising external agency members and/or members of the 
public, computerized ranking model, or other non-ranking selection 
process). (0-2 pts).
    Monitoring--Proposal describes State's biological and compliance 
monitoring plan for LIP including annual monitoring and evaluation of 
progress toward desired program objectives, results, and benefits. (6 
points total).
    j. Proposal describes compliance monitoring that will ensure 
accurate and timely evaluation to determine if landowners have 
completed agreed-upon practices in accordance with landowner agreement, 
including the process for addressing landowners who fail to comply with 
agreements. (0-3 pts).
    k. Proposal describes biological monitoring that will ensure 
species and habitats are monitored and evaluated adequately to 
determine the effectiveness of LIP-sponsored activities and progress 
towards accomplishment of short- and long-term benefits (Monitoring 
items may entail approaches for developing monitoring protocols and 
establishing baselines, monitoring standards, timeframes for conducting 
monitoring activities, and expectations for monitoring.) (0-3 pts).
    6. Budget--Proposal clearly identifies funds for use on private 
lands, identifies percentage of non-federal cost match, and identifies 
past funding awards. (7 points total).
     a. Proposal describes the percentage of the State's total LIP 
Tier-2 program funds identified for use on private lands as opposed to 
staff and related administrative support. (4 points total).

0 point if this is not addressed or admin is >35%
1 point if admin is >25 to 35%
2 points if admin is >15 to 25%
3 points if admin is >5 to 15%
4 points if admin is 0 to 5%

    Use on private lands includes all costs directly related to 
implementing on-the-ground projects with LIP funds. Activities 
considered project use include: technical guidance to landowner 
applicants; habitat restoration, enhancement, or management; purchase 
of conservation easements (including costs for appraisals, land survey, 
legal review, etc.); biological monitoring of Tier 2 project sites; 
compliance monitoring of Tier 2 projects. Staffing costs should only be 
included in this category when the staff-time will directly relate to 
implementation of a Tier 2 project. Standard Indirect rates negotiated 
between the State and Federal Government should also be included under 
Project Use.
    Staff and related administrative support includes all costs related 
to administration of LIP. Activities considered administrative include 
outreach (presentations, development or printing of brochures, etc.); 
planning; research; administrative staff support; staff supervision; 
overhead charged by subgrantees unless the rate is an approved 
negotiated rate for Federal grants.
    b. Proposal identifies the percentage of nonfederal cost sharing (3 
points total).

(Note: I.T. = Insular Territories)
0 point if nonfederal cost share is 25%
1 point if nonfederal cost share is > 25 to 30% (>0 to 25% I.T.)
2 points if non federal cost share is > 30 to 35% (>25 to 30% I.T.)
3 points if nonfederal cost share is > 35 % (>30 % I.T.)

    c. Proposal identifies percentage of previously awarded funds 
(exclude last fiscal year's awarded funds) that have been expended or 
encumbered. (Expended or encumbered funds are those Tier 2 funds that a 
State has either spent or has dedicated to a landowner through a signed 
contract between the landowner and the State. Funds must be expended/
encumbered on or before the due date for submittal of the Tier 2 grant 
proposal to the USFWS) (subtract maximum of 3 points total.).

3 points subtracted if <  25% funds expended/encumbered
2 points subtracted if > 25 to 50% funds expended/encumbered
1 point subtracted if > 50 to 75% funds expended/encumbered
0 point subtracted if > 75 to 100% funds expended/encumbered
Total Score Possible = 60 Points
Total Score----

Analysis of Public Comments Received Regarding National Review Team 
Ranking Criteria Guidance for Tier 2 LIP Grant Proposals

Comments Addressing Criterion 1: Overall

    Comment 1. Criteria 1a and 1b are subjective and should be removed.
    Response: Based on our experience with ranking Tier 2 LIP proposals 
in the past, we believe a criterion that evaluates the overall quality 
of a proposal and of the proposed program is extremely useful. We 
expect that proposal reviewers will use their sound professional 
judgment to assign points for these criteria in a fair and consistent 

Comments Addressing Criterion 2: Need

    Comment 2: Criterion 2a should be removed because urgency is 
implied whenever focusing conservation actions on species designated to 
be at-risk.
    Response: We believe there is merit in clearly describing the 
urgency facing at-risk species within a State and the overall need for 
a LIP to address this urgency. In our experience reviewing proposals, 
this description of urgency of need is a good foundation for the 
remaining components of the proposal.
    Comment 3: Criterion 2c is redundant with criterion 5b; one of the 
criteria should be removed.
    Response: We agree with this comment and have removed criterion 2c 
from the ranking criteria guidance.

Comments Addressing Criterion 3: Objectives

    Comment 4: Criterion 3 will result in proposals with a more narrow 
focus receiving lower scores than proposals with a broader focus due to 
the fact that points will be assigned based on the actual quantities of 
outcomes identified (for example, numbers of acres restored, etc.).
    Response: We will not assign points under this criterion based on 
the quantity of outcomes proposed. Rather, points will be assigned 
based on whether the objectives are in a quantifiable format. In other 
words, a proposal that identifies 100 acres of wetlands to be restored 
would receive equal points under this criterion as a proposal that 
identifies 200 acres of

[[Page 9142]]

wetlands to be restored. Proposals with objectives that are not 
quantified would receive reduced points under this criterion. States 
are encouraged to provide as many types of quantifiable objectives as 
possible (for example, number of acres, number of at-risk species, 
number of landowners, etc.).
    Comment 5: Criterion 3 should identify other, less-biological 
outcomes as potential objectives (for example, number of management 
plans developed and number of landowners served).
    Response: We have included a new criterion (3a) under Objectives 
that requests non-biological outputs such as those suggested.

Comments Addressing Criterion 4: Expected Results and Benefits

    Comment 6: To receive full points under this criterion, a proposal 
would have to include highly specific results for specific species, 
habitats, and activities. These specific results could only be 
described if actual projects were already selected before submitting 
the proposal.
    Response: We recognize the challenge of developing a proposal for a 
state-wide LIP that provides flexibility for implementation and 
adequate detail to address the ranking criteria. However, LIP is a 
competitive program, and we must use ranking criteria that can 
distinguish merit among proposals. Clearly, the expected benefits to 
at-risk species are a vital component of a LIP, and should be evaluated 
when determining merit of a proposal. In previous years, we have seen 
many examples of Tier 2 LIP proposals that describe adequately the 
expected benefits to at-risk species without actually selecting 
projects. For instance, the proposal can list the targeted at-risk 
species, identify the major habitats upon which these species depend, 
describe a suite of activities that may be employed, and describe the 
general types of benefits (short and long term) to be achieved as a 
result of the potential activities.
    Comment 7: Criterion 4c is redundant with criterion 5a. One of 
these criteria should be removed.
    Response: We have removed Criterion 4c (proposal describes 
conservation actions to be undertaken that will address current threats 
to the at-risk species and their habitats) from the ranking criteria 
    Comment 8: Criterion 4c (previously 4d) should be removed because 
it is redundant with criteria 4e and 4f.
    Response: We do not think that criterion 4c is redundant with 
criteria 4e and 4f (now 4d and 4e). The first criterion evaluates 
whether the connections between actions and benefits are clearly 
described; whereas, the second two criteria evaluate whether short- and 
long-term benefits are clearly described. We have reworded the criteria 
to make this distinction more clear.
    Comment 9: Awarding points for criterion 4e (previously 4f) would 
favor programs focused on purchasing conservation easements, or 
conservation activities occurring on permanently protected private 
lands. ``Long term'' should be defined as greater than 5 years.
    Response: Given that this is a competitive grant program, we 
believe that it is reasonable to provide additional points to those 
proposals that identify benefits for at-risk species that will be 
greater than 10 years. We do not agree that only proposals identifying 
conservation easements or working on already protected properties will 
qualify for points under this criterion. Based on our review of 
previous proposals, we expect that some States can successfully 
negotiate agreements with landowners to manage, maintain, or restore 
habitat for 10 years or longer. This criterion provides an incentive to 
encourage (not require) longer term commitments from the State and 
landowners. If a State cannot commit to these longer term benefits, it 
will still be eligible for points for shorter term benefits under 
criterion 4d.

Comments Addressing Criterion 5: Approach

    Comment 10: Ranking criteria guidance should evaluate whether the 
proposal clearly identifies the conservation priorities for at-risk 
species and describes how LIP will address these priorities.
    Response: We have included a new criterion 5a (proposal describes 
the conservation priorities for the State's LIP) to address this 
    Comment 11: Criteria 5c and 5d are redundant. One of these criteria 
should be removed.
    Response: We have combined criteria 5c and 5d together under 
criterion 5c and reduced the criterion to 2 points.
    Comment 12: Criteria 5g, 5h, 5i favor programs that employ a 
ranking system to select projects. Several States are successfully 
implementing programs that do not use ranking systems to select 
projects. These States would be penalized under these criteria.
    Response: We have reworded Criteria 5g, 5h, and 5i to address a 
broader array of project selection procedures.
    Comment 13: Criterion 5k indicates that proposals should describe 
specific biological monitoring protocols and plans. States cannot 
develop these specific plans and protocols for monitoring species until 
specific projects are selected. Also, biological monitoring of species 
can be very expensive and might require significant amounts of Tier 2 
funds to accomplish.
    Response: We recognize the challenges associated with biological 
monitoring of at-risk species and habitats. However, we believe that 
monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of grant activities on species 
and habitats is an essential component of LIP. We do not expect that 
proposals will describe highly specific monitoring protocols for 
species and habitats. Rather criterion 5k will be used to evaluate 
whether proposals have identified the need for, and general approach 
to, biological monitoring to ensure that conservation actions are 
effective. This monitoring can address species, or habitat surrogates, 
as necessary and based on funding available.
    Comment 14: Criterion 6c should be removed as it favors States that 
have submitted unsuccessful proposals in the past.
    Response: We have removed criterion 6c.
    Comment 15: Criterion 6c (previously criterion 6d) favors States 
that have received Tier 2 funds in the past. States that have not 
received funds previously are ineligible for points under this 
criterion. The terms ``expended,'' ``encumbered,'' and ``on-the-ground 
projects'' should be defined more clearly. Five points is too great to 
assign to this criterion. The criterion does not award points to States 
that have successfully spent portions of last fiscal year's funds. The 
50 percent benchmark is too high for this criterion.
    Response: We have revised this criterion (now criterion 6c) to be 
deductive so that States having not received Tier 2 funds will not be 
penalized. Points will be subtracted from proposals, rather than added. 
The greater the percentage of Tier 2 funds that a State has not 
encumbered or expended, the greater the number of points that will be 
deducted. The points assigned to this criterion have been reduced from 
five to three, and the benchmark has been reduced to 25 percent. The 
terms ``expended'' and ``encumbered'' have been further defined, and 
references to ``on-the-ground project'' have been removed.

Comments Addressing Funding Levels Available to the States

    Comment 16: The maximum funding that a single State may receive 
should remain at 5 percent of the total awarded to the States in a 
fiscal year. The

[[Page 9143]]

majority of commenters supported a 5 percent cap, and many of these 
commenters recommended that partial funding of proposals based on their 
merit be allowable.
    Response: For fiscal year 2006, the funding cap will remain at 5 
percent, and we will consider partial funding of proposals based on 
merit on an as-needed basis. In the future, if the total amount of LIP 
funds continues to decline and the quality of many proposals remains 
high, we may consider lowering the cap to 3 percent.
    Comment 17: For the Landowner Incentive Program to succeed, the 
level of the national funding must increase. Some commenters felt that 
the program should remain competitive, while others stated that it 
should not be competitive.
    Response: The Service is not responsible for determining the annual 
appropriation for the program, nor can it decide whether it is 
competitive or not. Any change from a competitive to a non-competitive 
program needs congressional authorization.

Other Comments

    Comment 18: The guidelines and ranking criteria guidance for the 
Landowner Incentive Program should remain as flexible as possible to 
maximize the ability of the States to succeed in conserving at-risk 
species on private lands.
    Response: We have attempted to maintain flexibility in the ranking 
criteria guidance, while also establishing clear criteria that will 
allow us to distinguish between the merits of proposals. Clear ranking 
criteria are essential given the requirement that the program be 
competitive and given the high demand for this limited funding source.
    Comment 19: The combined points allocated to criterion 3 
(Objectives) and criterion 4 (Expected Results and Benefits) should be 
greater or equal to the points allocated to criterion 5 (Approach). The 
outcomes for at-risk species are equally if not more important than the 
approach to achieving these outcomes.
    Response: We believe that the weight given to criteria related to 
Approach is reasonable given that we evaluate Landowner Incentive 
Programs overall, not specific projects. Clearly, the approach taken in 
implementing these programs will greatly affect whether they are 
ultimately successful.
    Comment 20: States have been delayed in spending previous Tier 2 
awards, due to lengthy reviews associated with Federal compliance 
requirements including Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, Section 
106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and the National 
Environmental Policy Act. States undergoing these lengthy compliance 
reviews should not be penalized in the ranking criteria for slow 
spending of previously awarded funds.
    Response: We are aware of the problems associated with compliance 
review for Landowner Incentive Program grants. The Division of Federal 
Assistance is working to fix these problems and quicken the review 
    Comment 21: The length of time between proposal submittal and award 
announcement should be reduced to allow States more quickly to 
implement their programs.
    Response: We will try to reduce these delays in the announcement of 
LIP awards in the future.

Pamela A. Matthes,
Acting Assistant Director.
[FR Doc. E6-2431 Filed 2-21-06; 8:45 am]