[Federal Register: October 1, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 190)]
[Page 61649-61662]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Fish and Wildlife Service

RIN 1018-AI56

Fiscal Year 2002 Private Stewardship Grants Program; Request for 
Grant Proposals and Final Policy and Implementation Guidelines

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of request for proposals; announcement of final policy 
and implementation guidelines.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are 
soliciting project proposals for Federal assistance under the Private 
Stewardship Grants Program (PSGP). This document describes how you can 
apply for funding under the PSGP and how we will determine which 
project proposals will be funded. Congress appropriated $10 million 
from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Fiscal Year 2002 for the 
Service to establish the PSGP. The PSGP provides grants and other 
assistance on a competitive basis to individuals and groups engaged in 
private, voluntary conservation efforts that benefit species listed or 
proposed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act), candidate species, or other at-risk species 
on private lands within the United States.

DATES: Project proposals must be received by the appropriate Regional 
Office (see Table 2 in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION) no later than 
December 2, 2002.

ADDRESSES: For additional information-contact the Service's Regional 
Office that has the responsibility for the State or Territory in which 
the proposed project would occur. The contact information for each 
Regional Office is listed in Table 2 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
below. Information on the PSGP is also available from the Branch of 
Recovery and State Grants, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. 
Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203 or electronically at 
http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/private--stewardship.html or e-mail: 
    To submit a project proposal--send your project proposals to the 
Service's Regional Office that has the responsibility for the State or 
Territory in which the proposed project would occur (see Table 2 under 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION). You must submit one original and two copies 
of the complete proposal. We will not accept facsimile project 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The Program Contact in the appropriate 
Regional Office identified in Table 2 under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
or Martin Miller, Chief, Branch of Recovery and State Grants (703/358-



    The majority of endangered and threatened species depend, at least 
in part, upon privately owned lands for their survival. The help of 
landowners is essential for the conservation of these and other 
imperiled species. Fortunately, many private landowners want to help. 
Often, however, the costs associated with implementing conservation 
actions are greater than a landowner could undertake without financial 
assistance. The President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2002 requested 
funding to address this need and Congress responded by appropriating 
$10 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the Service 
to establish the PSGP. The PSGP provides grants or other Federal 
assistance on a competitive basis to individuals and groups engaged in 
private, voluntary conservation efforts that benefit species listed or 
proposed as endangered or threatened under the Act, candidate species, 
or other at-risk species on private lands within the United States.
    We are soliciting project proposals for Federal assistance under 
the PSGP. This document describes how you can apply for funding under 
the PSGP and how we will determine which project proposals will be 
funded. On June 7, 2002, we published in the Federal Register (67 FR 
39419) our plan to implement the PSGP and solicited comments. As a 
result of the comments received, a number of changes have been made to 
the implementation guidelines. The following sections explain the PSGP. 
The first, Final Program Implementation Guidelines, includes the 
project eligibility criteria, the project selection process, and the 
instructions on how to apply for PSGP grants. The second, Summary of 
Comments and Recommendations, responds to the comments we received on 
the proposed implementation guidelines. The third, Required 
Determinations, addresses the regulatory requirements associated with 
issuing the final PSGP implementation guidelines.

I. Final Program Implementation Guidelines

    As a result of comments received, we have made a number of changes 
in the implementation guidelines. Therefore, we encourage you to read 
the entire document before preparing a project proposal. We have 
revised the scoring system used to evaluate projects, provided 
substantially more guidance on submitting a project proposal, and 
clarified the eligibility criteria.
What Types of Projects May Be Funded?
    Eligible projects include those by landowners and their partners 
who need technical and financial assistance to improve habitat or 
implement other activities on private lands for the benefit of 
endangered, threatened, proposed, candidate, or other at-risk species 
(plants and animals). Under the PSGP, privately owned means land that 
is not owned by a governmental entity.
    For information on which species are endangered, threatened, 
proposed, or candidates, please visit the Service's Internet site at 
http://endangered.fws.gov/wildlife.html. For the purposes of the PSGP, 
an ``at-risk species'' is any species formally recognized as a species 
of conservation concern, such as species listed by a State or 
Territory. We recommend that you contact your State natural resources 
agency to determine which species are recognized as species of 
conservation concern (e.g., State listed as endangered, threatened, 
special concern, or other similar designations). If your State does not 
identify species of conservation concern or in addition to those 
species identified by the State, we will also consider any species or 
subspecies listed by NatureServe as ``critically imperiled'' 
(designated by rank ``G1'' or ``T1''), ``imperiled'' (designated by 
rank ``G2'' or ``T2''), or ``vulnerable'' (designated by rank ``G3'' or 
``T3'') to be an at-risk species for the purposes of the PSGP. For 
information on NatureServe rankings, please visit their Internet site 
at http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/.
    The PSGP supports on-the-ground conservation actions as opposed to 
planning or research activities. Examples of the types of projects that 
may be funded include managing nonnative competitors, reintroducing 
imperiled species, implementing measures to minimize risk from disease, 
restoring streams that support imperiled species, erecting fencing to 
exclude animals from sensitive habitats, or planting native vegetation 
to restore a rare plant community. This is not an exhaustive list of 
the various projects that may be funded under the PSGP. We recognize 
that there is a multitude of ways to benefit imperiled species 
conservation on private lands. While we will not fund the acquisition 
of real property either through fee title or easements, we are not 
excluding any

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other approach from consideration so long as it can demonstrate 
tangible on-the-ground benefits to the imperiled species in question 
and meets the other eligibility criteria established for the PSGP.
Who Can Apply for PSGP Grants?
    Private landowners, individually or as a group, are encouraged to 
submit project proposals for their properties. Additionally, 
individuals or groups (for example land conservancies, community 
organizations, or conservation organizations) working with private 
landowners on conservation efforts are also encouraged to submit 
project proposals provided they identify specific private landowners 
who have confirmed their intent to participate on the project or 
provide other evidence in the project proposal to demonstrate landowner 
participation will occur. In order to receive funding, projects will 
need to ensure that landowners are willing to allow the Service access 
to the project area in order to check on its progress when necessary.
    State government agencies are not eligible to receive PSGP funding 
(including as a subrecipient). The Service has established a separate 
program specifically designed to facilitate State government 
partnerships with private landowners, the Landowner Incentive Program. 
State agencies are encouraged to assist landowners in developing PSGP 
project proposals, to provide cost share when feasible, or to 
participate in other ways on project implementation. However, State 
agencies are not eligible to apply for PSGP funding directly.
    Other non-Federal governmental entities or affiliates, including 
Counties or other local governments or State-supported universities, 
are eligible to apply for PSGP funding in order to assist private 
landowners in planning and implementing a project. As with other groups 
that apply on behalf of the private landowners, they must identify 
specific private landowners who have confirmed their intent to 
participate on the project or provide other evidence in the project 
proposal to demonstrate that landowner participation will occur.
Eligibility Criteria
    The following criteria must be satisfied for a proposal to be 
considered for funding:
    (1) The project must involve voluntary conservation efforts on 
behalf of private landowners within the United States (i.e., U.S. 
States and Territories). As a voluntary program, we will not grant 
funding for projects that serve to satisfy regulatory requirements of 
the Act, including complying with a biological opinion under section 7 
of the Act or fulfilling commitments of a Habitat Conservation Plan 
under section 10 of the Act, or for projects that serve to satisfy 
other local, State, or Federal regulatory requirements (e.g., 
mitigation for local, State, or Federal permits).
    (2) The project must benefit species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act by the Service, species proposed or designated 
as candidates for listing by the Service, or other at-risk species that 
are native to the United States. We will not award grants to fund the 
acquisition of real property either through fee title or easements. 
However, habitat improvements over and above any existing requirements 
for lands covered under current easements or other such conservation 
tools would be considered eligible for funding.
    (3) The proposal must include at least 10 percent cost sharing 
(i.e., at least 10 percent of total project cost) on the part of the 
landowner or other non-Federal partners involved in the project (the 
cost-share may be an in-kind contribution, including equipment, 
materials, operations, and maintenance costs). The cost share must come 
from sources other than the PSGP or other Federal funds.
    (4) The proposal must either identify at least some of the specific 
landowners who have confirmed their intent to participate in the 
private conservation efforts (not all participating landowners need to 
be identified at the time of the proposal submission) or provide other 
information to demonstrate that the project, if funded, would have full 
landowner participation.
    (5) The proposal must include a reasonably detailed budget 
indicating how the funding will be used and how each partner is 
contributing. A project begins on the effective date of an award 
agreement between you and an authorized representative of the U.S. 
Government and ends on the date specified in the award. Accordingly, we 
cannot reimburse you for time that you expend or costs that you incur 
in developing a project or preparing the application, or in any 
discussions or negotiations you may have with us prior to the award. We 
will not accept such expenditures as part of your cost share. We will 
also not consider fees or profits as allowable costs in your 
application. The total costs of a project consist of all allowable 
costs you incur, including the value of in-kind contributions, in 
accomplishing project objectives during the life of the project. The 
costs proposed to be funded through the PSGP may not exceed 90 percent 
of the total costs.
    (6) The proposal must include quantifiable measures that can be 
used to evaluate the project's success. These quantifiable measures 
must be specific, clear, and provide demonstrable benefits to the 
target species such as increased habitat quantity or quality. The 
project proposal should specify in detail how the habitat quantity or 
quality will be improved (e.g., acres, species, etc.) and the 
anticipated use of that habitat by the target species (e.g., numbers, 
duration, etc.). For example, a proposal might specify the number of 
acres restored by planting specific native plants and the number of 
breeding pairs of the target species that are anticipated to use the 
restored habitat. Proposed methods of monitoring, evaluating, and 
reporting these measures in comparison to an initial baseline should 
also be included in the proposal.
How Does the PSGP Work?
    Interested individuals and groups prepare proposals that describe 
their project and its benefits for the target species. See ``Project 
Proposals'' below for additional information. Proposals will compete at 
a Regional level for funding. We have established targets for the 
amount of funding that will be available for grants within each of the 
Service's Regions. These targets are based 50 percent on the number of 
acres of non-Federal land, as a representation of the amount of private 
land within each Region, and 50 percent on the number of listed, 
proposed, candidate, and a sample of the other at-risk species in each 
Region (see Table 1 for regional funding targets).

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                     Table 1.--Service Regions and Funding Target for Grants in each Region
                                                                                                   Total funding
                                                                                                    target for
                    Region                                   States and territories                grants within
Region 1 (Pacific)............................  California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington,        $2,821,859
                                                 Nevada, American Samoa, Guam, and Commonwealth
                                                 of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Region 2 (Southwest)..........................  Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas........       1,490,457
Region 3 (Great Lakes-Big Rivers).............  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota,            942,981
                                                 Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Region 4 (Southeast)..........................  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky,         1,723,690
                                                 Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South
                                                 Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and the U.S.
                                                 Virgin Islands.
Region 5 (Northeast)..........................  Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia,             634,151
                                                 Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
                                                 New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode
                                                 Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Region 6 (Mountain-Prairie)...................  Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North             1,413,886
                                                 Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
Region 7 (Alaska).............................  Alaska..........................................         472,976

    The Service will award grants for actions and activities that 
protect and restore habitats that benefit federally listed, proposed, 
or candidate species, or other at-risk species on private lands. 
Additionally, the Service, in cooperation with the grantees, must 
address Federal compliance issues, such as the National Environmental 
Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Endangered 
Species Act. For the projects that are selected to receive funding, we 
will provide additional guidance on compliance with these requirements.
    The final exact amount of funds, the scope of work, and terms and 
conditions of a successful award will be determined in pre-award 
negotiations between the prospective recipient and the Service's 
representatives. The prospective recipient will be asked to sign an 
agreement that specifies the project requirements, such as the cost 
share, the project design, the time commitment for maintaining the 
project's benefits, and the reporting requirements, and that provides 
for Service access to the project area in order to check on its 
progress. In order to receive funding, prospective recipient will also 
need to provide assurances and certifications of compliance with other 
Federal requirements (for example see Standard Form 424-B and 
Department of the Interior form DI-2010 available at http://
www.nctc.fws.gov/fedaid/toolkit/formsfil.pdf). The recipient is 
reimbursed based on the cost-sharing formula in the Agreement. You 
should not initiate your project in expectation of PSGP funding until 
you receive the final grant award document signed by an authorized 
Service official.
How To Apply for a PSGP Grant
    You must follow the instructions in this document in order to apply 
for financial assistance under the PSGP. For a description of the 
information that must be included in a project proposal, please see the 
``The PSGP Project Proposal'' section below. Your project proposal 
should not be bound in any manner and must be printed on one side only. 
You must submit one signed original and two signed copies of your 
project proposal (including supporting information). Your unbound (a 
binder clip is allowed) project proposal must be received by the 
appropriate Regional Office listed in Table 2 by December 2, 2002. We 
encourage you to contact the Regional contact person listed in Table 2 
prior to submitting a project proposal should you have questions 
regarding what information must be submitted with the project proposal. 
An incomplete proposal will not be considered for funding.

                                         Table 2.--Where To Send Project Proposals and List of Regional Contacts
                                         States or territory where the     Where to send your PSGP
            Service region                    project will occur               project proposal               Regional PSGP contact and phone No.
Region 1..............................  Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon,          Regional Director, U.S. Fish   Heather Hollis (503/231-6241).
                                         Washington, American Samoa,     and Wildlife Service,
                                         Guam, and Commonwealth of the   Eastside Federal Complex,
                                         Northern Mariana Islands.       911 N.E. 11th Avenue,
                                                                         Portland, OR 97232-4181.
Region 1..............................  California and Nevada.........  Office Manager, U.S. Fish and  Miel Corbett (916/414-6464).
                                                                         Wildlife Service, Federal
                                                                         Building, 2800 Cottage Way,
                                                                         Room W-2606 Sacramento, CA
Region 2..............................  Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma,  Regional Director, U.S. Fish   Susan MacMullin (505/248-6671).
                                         and Texas.                      and Wildlife Service, 500
                                                                         Gold Avenue SW., Room 4012,
                                                                         Albuquerque, NM 87102.
Region 3..............................  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,        Regional Director, U.S. Fish   Peter Fasbender (612/713-5343).
                                         Michigan, Minnesota,            and Wildlife Service, Bishop
                                         Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  Henry Whipple Federal,
                                                                         Building One, Federal Drive,
                                                                         Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056.

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Region 4..............................  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida,     Regional Director, U.S. Fish   Noreen Walsh (404/679-7085).
                                         Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana,   and Wildlife Service, 1875
                                         Mississippi, North Carolina,    Century Boulevard, Suite
                                         South Carolina, Tennessee,      200, Atlanta, GA 30345.
                                         Puerto Rico, and the U.S.
                                         Virgin Islands.
Region 5..............................  Connecticut, Delaware,          Regional Director, U.S. Fish   Diane Lynch (413/253-8628).
                                         District of Columbia, Maine,    and Wildlife Service, 300
                                         Maryland, Massachusetts, New    Westgate Center Drive,
                                         Hampshire, New Jersey, New      Hadley, MA 01035-9589.
                                         York, Pennsylvania, Rhode
                                         Island, Vermont, Virginia,
                                         and West Virginia.
Region 6..............................  Colorado, Kansas, Montana,      Regional Director, U.S. Fish   Patty Worthing (303/236-7400 ext. 251).
                                         Nebraska, North Dakota, South   and Wildlife Service, P.O.
                                         Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.      Box 25486, Denver Federal
                                                                         Center, Denver, CO 80225-
Region 7..............................  Alaska........................  Regional Director, U.S. Fish   Susan Detwiler (907/786-3868).
                                                                         and Wildlife Service, 1011
                                                                         East Tudor Road, Anchorage,
                                                                         AK 99503-6199.

The PSGP Project Proposal
    The project proposal is a narrative description of your project and 
one required Federal form. The ultimate size of the proposal will 
depend on its complexity, but we request that you attempt to minimize 
the size of the narrative description of the proposal. Each page should 
be no larger than 8.5 by 11 inches. You will need to submit an original 
proposal and two copies; neither the original nor the copies should be 
permanently bound. A complete application package with detailed 
instructions and supplementary information can be found at our Internet 
site: http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/private--stewardship.html.
    The project proposal should also indicate whether partial funding 
of the project is practicable, and, if so, what specific portion(s) of 
the project could be implemented with what level of funding. A project 
proposal that is a part of a longer-term initiative will be considered; 
however, the proposed project's objectives, benefits, and tasks must 
stand on their own, as there are no assurances that additional funding 
would be awarded in subsequent years for associated or complementary 
    The Service, the Department of the Interior, and the Office of 
Management and Budget have established requirements concerning Federal 
financial assistance. This includes established principles for 
determining which costs are allowable or eligible based on the type of 
applicant (see ``Administrative Requirements'' below). Your project 
proposal must comply with these requirements.
    The narrative description of your project proposal should 
specifically address each of the eligibility criteria and each of the 
ranking factors. We recommend the following format for the project 
    (1) Title Page. You should list on the Title Page a project title, 
objectives, duration, summary of costs (amounts of PSGP funding needed 
and cost sharing), and contact information (name, address and phone 
    (2) Project Description. The project proposal must identify which 
species will benefit, how they will benefit from the project, and 
describe the project's significance to each target species (goals and 
objectives for the project). We also encourage applicants to describe 
how the location of the project and its role in the landscape affect 
the conservation of the target species. The proposal must either 
identify at least some of the specific landowners who have confirmed 
their intent to participate in the private conservation efforts or 
provide other information to demonstrate that the project, if funded, 
would have full landowner participation. Explain why you need 
government financial assistance for the proposed work. List all other 
sources of funding you have or are seeking for the project. List any 
existing Federal, State, Tribal, or local government programs or 
activities that this project would affect.
    (3) Project statement of work. The statement of work is an action 
plan of activities you will conduct during the period of the project. 
You must prepare a detailed narrative, fully describing the work you 
will perform to achieve the project goals and objectives. The narrative 
should respond to the following questions:
    (a) What is the project design? What specific work, activities, and 
procedures will you undertake?
    (b) Who will be responsible for carrying out the various 
activities? Describe how the project will be organized and managed. 
Identify the person(s) responsible for the project and other project 
    (c) What are the project milestones? Each project should first 
clearly describe the base-line conditions as they exist prior to 
project implementation. List milestones, describing the specific 
activities and associated time lines to conduct the scope of work. 
Describe the time lines in increments (e.g., month 1, month 2), rather 
than by specific dates.
    (d) Specify the criteria and procedures that you will use to 
evaluate the relative success or failure of a project in achieving its 
    (e) For what amount of time will you commit to maintain the habitat 
improvements or other benefits from the project? Describe the steps you 
will take to ensure that the benefits of the project continue 
throughout this time period.
    (4) Project Budget. You must submit a reasonably detailed budget 
for the project. The budget should indicate the breakdown of costs 
proposed to be funded through the PSGP and other costs, through both 
cash and in-kind contributions. To support your project's budget, also 
describe briefly the basis for estimating the value of the cost sharing 
derived from in-kind contributions.
    (5) Supporting Documentation. You should include any relevant 
documents and additional information (maps, background documents) that 
will help

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us to understand the project and the problem/opportunity you seek to 
    One Federal form, Standard Form-424 ``Application for Federal 
Assistance,'' must also be completed and submitted with your project 
narrative description. Detailed instructions for filling out this form 
are included in the application package available on our Internet site 
at: http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/private--stewardship.html or see 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT above. This form is also available on 
the Internet at http://www.gsa.gov/forms/, at http://www.nctc.fws.gov/
fedaid/toolkit/toolkit.pdf, or from the Regional PSGP Contact Person.
Administrative Requirements
    Listed in the table below are the administrative requirements that 
will apply to your project if funded through the PSGP. The documents 
listed below establish principles for determining which costs are 
allowable or eligible (``cost principles'') and describe other 
requirements that apply to receiving PSGP funding. These requirements 
apply to recipients and subrecipients of PSGP funding. In some cases, 
the requirements vary depending upon the type of organization receiving 
the funding or that is a subrecipient of the funding. Each of these 
documents can be found at our Internet site: http://endangered.fws.gov/
grants/private--stewardship.html. For projects that are selected for 
funding, we will also offer additional technical assistance to 
facilitate the prospective recipients' understanding of the financial 

      Table 3.--Administrative Requirements for PSGP Funding Awards
             Category                       Specific requirements
Individuals, private firms, and     * Federal Acquisition Regulation
 other non-profits excluded from     Subpart 31.2.
 coverage under OMB Circular No. A- * 43 CFR 18 (New Restrictions on
 122.                                Lobbying).
                                    * 48 CFR 31 (Contracts with
                                     Commercial Organizations).
Non-Profit Organizations covered    * 43 CFR 12 (Administrative and
 under OMB Circular No. A-122.       Audit Requirements and Cost
                                     Principles for Assistance
                                    * 43 CFR 18 (New Restrictions on
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-110
                                     (Administrative Requirements for
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-122 (Cost
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-133 (Audits).
Educational Institutions (even if   * 43 CFR 12 (Administrative and
 part of a State or local            Audit Requirements and Cost
 government).                        Principles for Assistance
                                    * 43 CFR 18 (New Restrictions on
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-21 (Cost
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-110
                                     (Administrative Requirements for
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-133 (Audits).
States, local governments, and      * 43 CFR 12 (Administrative and
 Indian Tribes.                      Audit Requirements and Cost
                                     Principles for Assistance
                                    * 43 CFR 18 (New Restrictions on
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-87 (Cost
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-102 (Grants and
                                     Cooperative Agreements).
                                    * OMB Circular No. A-133 (Audits).

Who Can Help Plan and Implement a Project?
    The Service may be able to assist landowners in planning or 
implementing projects. Through multiple programs, we offer a variety of 
expertise to assist landowners in planning and implementing projects on 
private lands. Among others, the Service's Endangered Species program 
and the Fish and Wildlife Management and Habitat Restoration program 
have worked hand-in-hand with a variety of partners on private lands. 
The Service's ability to assist landowners will depend upon the type of 
project proposed and an assessment of how the project fits into our 
existing workloads and priorities. Due to the limited time available 
for such assistance, it may be necessary to submit the project proposal 
for funding under a future PSGP Request for Proposals. For additional 
information on how the Service may be able to assist you, contact the 
Program Contact in the appropriate Regional Office identified in Table 
2. Information is also available from the Service's Internet site at 
    In addition, many other Federal, State, Territory, or Tribal 
agencies, as well as conservation organizations, work closely with 
landowners and may be able to assist with planning and implementing a 
project. Local governments, such as your county or city, may also have 
personnel that could assist you in developing a project proposal.
    For general guidance on developing and writing grant proposals, see 
the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance's Internet site at http://
How Will Proposals Be Selected?
    Proposals will compete at a Regional level for funding. Within each 
Region, a diverse panel of representatives from State and Federal 
government, conservation organizations, agriculture and development 
interests, and the science community will assess the applications and 
make funding recommendations to the Service. The Service's Regional 
Offices will invite and select the individuals to participate on the 
panels. The purpose of using the diverse panels is to obtain individual 
advice on project selection from an array of interests involved with 
conservation efforts on private lands. The Service will use the 
individual panel member recommendations in selecting projects, although 
geographic distribution of projects, the amount of funding requested 
for a project compared with the total amount of funding available, and 
other such factors may also be considered. Partial funding of one or 
more projects, when practicable, may be considered. After reviewing the 
individual panel member recommendations and the other factors, the 
Service's Director will make funding selections, subject only to the 
final approval of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and 
    Members of each diverse panel will individually score each proposal 
based on a set of ranking factors, which include (1) the number of 
endangered or threatened species, species proposed or

[[Page 61654]]

candidates for such listing, and at-risk species that will benefit from 
the project; (2) the importance of the project to the conservation of 
those species, including the duration of the benefits, the magnitude of 
the benefits, and the urgency of the project; and (3) other proposal 
merits, such as whether the project complements other conservation 
projects in the area, the project's unique qualities, feasibility of 
the project, or any other appropriate justifications, including 
particular strengths in the above categories (e.g., extraordinary 
    Due to the wide variety of project proposals that will likely be 
submitted, the scoring system must provide a relatively high degree of 
flexibility. Therefore, a scoring system that is relatively simple, but 
allows project proposals to be evaluated qualitatively as well as 
quantitatively is desired. The three ranking factors will be scored as 
described in Table 4 below.

              Table 4.--Project Proposal Scoring Guidelines
                           [10 points maximum]
                                      Project proposal        Number of
         Ranking factor                  assessment             points
(1) The number of federally      5 or fewer species........            1
 listed, proposed, candidate,    6 or more species.........            2
 or at-risk species that will
 directly benefit from the
(2) The importance of the        Qualitative...............          1-5
 project to the conservation of
 the target species, including
 the duration of the benefits,
 the magnitude of the benefits,
 and the urgency of the project.
(3) Other Proposal Merits.       Qualitative...............          0-3
 Whether the project
 complements other projects in
 the area, the project's unique
 qualities, feasibility of the
 project, or any other
 appropriate justifications,
 including particular strengths
 in the above categories (e.g.,
 extraordinary benefits).

How Does the PSGP Further the Mission of the Service?
    President Bush has launched a new strategy for improving the 
management and performance of the Federal Government. The PSGP will 
reflect the President's strategy and embody the Secretary's commitment 
to citizen-centered government around ``four Cs': Conservation through 
Cooperation, Consultation, and Communication.
    The quantifiable measures required of each proposal to be eligible 
under the PSGP will help achieve the overall goal of the program to 
conserve endangered, threatened, or other at risk species. Through this 
program, private, voluntary conservation efforts will help the Service 
meet its Long-Term and Annual Performance Goals as expressed in the 
Service's Annual Performance Plan. In accordance with the Government 
Performance and Results Act of 1993 (31 U.S.C. 1115), the Service 
prepares a Strategic Plan. This plan describes the Service's 
performance goals and measures. The eligibility criteria, selection 
factors, and reporting requirements in the PSGP ensures that the 
projects funded maximize progress toward our goals and measures. Among 
others, the PSGP furthers the Service's goals for conserving imperiled 
species (Long-term Goal 1.2--Through 2005, 404 species listed under the 
Act as endangered or threatened a decade of more are either stable or 
improving, 15 species are delisted due to recovery, and listing of 12 
species at risk is made unnecessary due to conservation agreements) and 
habitat conservation (Long-term Goal 2.3-By 2005, improve fish and 
wildlife populations focusing on trust resources, threatened and 
endangered species, and species of special concern by enhancing and/or 
restoring or creating 550,000 acres of wetlands habitat, restoring 
1,000,000 acres of upland habitats, and enhancing and/or restoring 
9,800 riparian or stream miles of habitat off-service lands through 
partnerships and other identified conservation strategies) as described 
in the Service's strategic plan. Information on the Service's strategic 
plans and performance reports are available on the Service's Internet 
site at http://planning.fws.gov/. These Service goals support the 
Department of the Interior's Long-term goals as identified in the Draft 
Strategic Plan. Specifically, Resource Protection Goals 1.1 (Improve 
health of watersheds and landscapes) and 1.2 (Sustain biological 

II. Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    In response to our request for comments on the draft policy, we 
received letters from 26 entities. All comments received have been 
reviewed. Overall, almost all respondents expressed appreciation for 
the PSGP. Many offered valuable suggestions for improving or clarifying 
specific sections of the final implementation guidelines. Some minor 
editorial and other changes in the text were suggested; these comments 
are not included in the following analysis but all were considered, and 
many of the minor changes were included in the final guidelines. The 
comments and responses are presented below and are grouped topically.
Comments on General Program Implementation
    Comment 1: Many commenters stated their support for the PSGP and 
the use of incentive-based approaches for conserving imperiled species.
    Response 1: We appreciate these comments and look forward to 
working with interested parties in helping to notify landowners of the 
opportunities available through the PSGP.
    Comment 2: Several commenters stated that the $10 million for the 
PSGP was not sufficient to meet the demand for project funding.
    Response 2: We believe that this level of funding is appropriate to 
initiate the PSGP, but agree that demand may exceed this funding level 
in the future. As the PSGP develops, we will reevaluate our funding 
level requests.
    Comment 3: Several commenters recommended that we find ways to make 
the PSGP process simple in order to encourage the voluntary 
participation by landowners. Several commenters recommended that the 
Service keep the program flexible and not restrict landowners beyond 
that which is

[[Page 61655]]

necessary to successfully implement the project.
    Response 3: We have attempted to make the PSGP as simple and as 
flexible as possible, while meeting the established requirements for 
awarding Federal financial assistance. As we gain experience 
implementing the PSGP, we will continue to look for ways to make the 
program more user friendly.
    Comment 4: Three commenters recommended that projects be based on 
the best available scientific and commercial information available.
    Response 4: We agree that, to the extent practicable, projects 
should incorporate the best available scientific and commercial 
information. When assisting prospective applicants in developing 
project proposals, we will assist them in making use of the best 
information available. Additionally, the use of the best science will 
be considered in the selection process. However, we do not believe it 
is necessary to stipulate this as an eligibility requirement for a 
proposal to be considered for funding. There may be project proposals 
submitted that would provide substantial benefits, but that could be 
improved with modifications to the project design or methods. 
Therefore, for projects that are selected for funding the Service will 
work with the prospective recipient to ensure the scope of work and the 
terms and conditions for the project incorporate the best available 
scientific information.
    Comment 5: Several commenters suggested additions to the PSGP 
implementation plan, including issuing multiple Requests for Proposals, 
awarding grants quickly, developing application and reporting forms, 
setting aside funding to allow for monitoring and evaluation, 
establishing a tracking system for project implementation, and 
expanding State, Tribal, and stakeholder participation in the program 
development process.
    Response 5: We appreciate these well-reasoned suggestions and have 
incorporated them to the extent feasible for this first year of 
implementing the program. As we gain additional experience, we will 
consider ways to further incorporate these suggestions.
    Comment 6: One commenter stated that it is important to document 
success stories and report those successes to Congress and the media to 
promote the cooperative conservation ethic.
    Response 6: We agree that it is critically important that we share 
the successes of the PSGP, and we will make every effort to do so.
    Comment 7: One commenter stated that we should integrate PSGP into 
the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) and have it administered by the 
Service's Federal Aid program. Another commenter recommended that the 
PSGP be implemented through the Service's Partners for Fish and 
Wildlife program in cooperation with the States. Conversely, another 
commenter stated support for private landowners being able to apply 
directly to the Federal Government for a grant.
    Response 7: Conserving species on private lands requires a multi-
faceted approach that is exemplified by the PSGP and the LIP. These 
programs provide opportunities for landowners to work cooperatively 
with the Service, the States and Territories, and the Tribes. Some 
private landowners will want to work directly with the Service. For 
others, working with the State, Territory, or Tribe will best meet 
their needs. In all cases, these programs will enhance relationships 
with our partners and offer a diversity of approaches for addressing 
important habitat needs for imperiled species. The Service's Federal 
Aid program works primarily with State agencies, rather than directly 
with landowners. The Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife program 
will be involved in implementing the PSGP. We will also continue to 
look for ways to improve the coordination of the PSGP with other 
Federal assistance programs.
    Comment 8: One commenter stated that the Service should provide 
assurances that information provided to the agency will not be 
disseminated to others for use in ways unrelated to the project (by law 
enforcement personnel or to the public under the Freedom of Information 
Act). Other commenters stated that information generated by the PSGP 
should be readily available to the public.
    Response 8: The commenter's concern with the confidentiality of 
information made available to the Service under the PSGP is 
understandable. Private landowners are often apprehensive that 
compliance with applicable Federal statutes may affect some land uses. 
In deciding whether to participate in the PSGP, prospective applicants 
should carefully consider the potential legal obligations that the 
landowner may face by attracting or increasing listed species or 
species that may become listed on their property. For those landowners 
where such concerns would preclude your participation in the PSGP, we 
encourage you to speak to the Service's PSGP contact person about the 
potential for the development of a Safe Harbor Agreement or a Candidate 
Conservation Agreement with Assurances for your project. Safe Harbor 
Agreements encourage voluntary management for listed species to promote 
recovery on non-Federal lands by giving assurances to the landowners 
that no additional future regulatory restrictions will be imposed under 
most circumstances. Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances 
provide incentives for non-Federal property owners to conserve 
candidate species, thus potentially making listing unnecessary and 
providing regulatory assurances in the event the species is listed. The 
feasibility of including these types of agreements will depend upon the 
proposed project and whether the landowner is willing to meet the 
additional requirements for such agreements.
    Project proposals under the PSGP are subject to Freedom of 
Information Act requirements and will be reviewed by non-Service staff. 
Applicants may request that we withhold specific information from 
release outside the agency, which we will honor to the extent allowable 
by law. If you wish us to withhold specific personal or proprietary 
information, you must identify which information is to be withheld and 
state this request prominently at the beginning of your proposal.
    Comment 9: One commenter asked that we clarify how we determined 
the number of at-risk species used to establish the Regional funding 
    Response 9: We used the number of species and subspecies within 
each Region that were not listed, proposed, or candidates, but that 
were ranked by NatureServe as ``critically imperiled,'' ``imperiled,'' 
or ``vulnerable.'' Additional discussion on ``at-risk'' species is 
included in the ``What types of projects may be funded?'' section 
above. The number of species or subspecies for each Region at the time 
we prepared the Fiscal Year 2002 allocation targets is included below 
in Table 5.

[[Page 61656]]

 Table 5.--Number of Species or Subspecies by Service Region With No Federal Status and Ranked by NatureServe as
                   ``Critically Imperiled, Imperiled, or Vulnerable'' as of September 30, 2001
    Region 1         Region 2        Region 3        Region 4        Region 5        Region 6        Region 7
       4,374            2,024              444           1,810             637           1,430             286

Comments Related to the Eligibility Criteria
    Comment 10: Two commenters recommended that the program focus on 
ecosystems or communities that consider an array of species, or 
projects at the eco-regional scale as opposed to focusing on 
individual, targeted species.
    Response 10: In evaluating the merits of a project, we will 
consider the larger conservation context in which the project would 
occur. Thus projects that have greater benefits in the sense that they 
address the needs of multiple species or that are part of a larger 
conservation planning effort will in general score higher than projects 
that do not provide such benefits. However, we do not believe it is 
necessary to revise the eligibility criteria to exclude species-
specific projects or to make the required scale of a project beyond the 
ability of willing private landowners. Some of the most important and 
most cost-effective projects for conserving an imperiled species are 
those done by a single landowner or a few landowners located in key 
portions of a species' range. Additionally in some cases, efforts to 
conserve a single or a small number of species can have significant 
benefits for the entire natural community.
    Comment 11: Many commenters recommended that we should better 
define which species are considered at-risk and one commenter stated 
that the State fish and wildlife agency should be consulted in 
determining which species are at-risk.
    Response 11: We have provided additional clarification on how to 
determine which species are considered at-risk for the purposes of the 
PSGP (see also ``What types of projects may be funded?'' above). We 
encourage prospective applicants to contact their State fish and 
wildlife agency to ascertain whether their State designates species 
that are of conservation concern (e.g., State listed as endangered, 
threatened, special concern, or other similar designations). If your 
State does not identify species of conservation concern or in addition 
to those species identified by the State, we will also consider any 
species or subspecies listed by NatureServe as ``critically imperiled'' 
(designated by rank ``G1'' or ``T1''), ``imperiled'' (designated by 
rank ``G2'' or ``T2''), or ``vulnerable'' (designated by rank ``G3'' or 
``T3'') to be an at-risk species. For information on NatureServe 
rankings, please visit their Internet site at http://
    Comment 12: One commenter suggested that, given the limited funding 
available for projects, we not include at-risk species in the PSGP. 
Other commenters encouraged the consideration of ``at-risk'' species.
    Response 12: We understand the commenter's concern over the limited 
funding for the PSGP and acknowledge that there are many listed species 
for which projects on private lands are needed. However, we also 
recognize that projects for at-risk species have the potential to 
provide large benefits as well and not only for the at-risk species. 
Early conservation efforts preserve management options, minimize the 
cost of recovery, and reduce the potential for restrictive land use 
policies in the future. Addressing the needs of species before the 
regulatory restrictions associated with listed species come into play 
often allows greater management flexibility to stabilize or restore 
these species and their habitats. This cost-effective approach also 
benefits species already listed by freeing up additional resources for 
their recovery.
    Comment 13: Three commenters recommended that we establish a cap on 
the amount that could be funded in any single grant.
    Response 13: We will consider establishing a cap on the amount of 
the awards in future years. However, we would first like to see the 
range of projects that are submitted in order to establish a context 
for an appropriate cap size and to enable further consideration of how 
a cap would affect the quality of the projects that are ultimately 
    Comment 14: One commenter stated that partial funding often creates 
more problems than it solves.
    Response 14: We recognize that partial funding can complicate the 
awards process and that for some projects partial funding is not 
appropriate. However, when fully funding the project is not currently 
practicable, we will consider providing partial funding. For example, 
the scale of some projects may be reduced in order to allow the 
efficacy of the efforts to be more fully evaluated prior to fully 
funding the project. In other cases, project components may have 
discrete benefits that would warrant individual funding. As described 
above in ``The PSGP Project Proposal,'' we request that applicants 
indicate in the project proposal whether partial funding of the project 
is practicable, and, if so, what specific portion(s) of the project 
could be implemented with what level of funding. We will award partial 
funding only where we believe it is clearly beneficial to do so. We 
will work with the recipient of the funding to clearly delineate what 
portion of the project is being funded and ensure the terms and 
conditions of the award are appropriate for the funding provided.
    Comment 15: Two commenters indicated that a 10 percent cost share 
was reasonable. Two other commenters stated that the level of cost 
share should not be included in the project ranking system or should be 
deleted as an eligibility requirement. One commenter recommended that 
the State should provide the 10 percent match.
    Response 15: We believe the 10 percent cost share is reasonable, 
and given that it may be met with an in-kind contribution to the 
project, is unlikely to inhibit the participation of interested 
landowners. While some States may choose to assist landowners with the 
cost share, we believe that the PSGP should be flexible and not specify 
only one source for the cost share. After additional consideration, we 
agree that cost share should not be included in the scoring system. We 
recognize that some of the most beneficial projects may involve a 
single landowner with limited cost share ability. Therefore, we have 
deleted the cost share from the project proposal scoring guidelines. 
However, to be considered for funding, a project proposal must 
demonstrate that at least 10 percent of the total costs will be 
provided from sources other than the PSGP or other Federal funds.
    Comment 16: One commenter stated that accounting requirements for 
in-kind and matching contributions are too cumbersome and may cause 
some individuals to decline to participate.
    Response 16: We do not want potential applicants to decline to 
participate because of the perceived burden of accounting requirements 

[[Page 61657]]

Federal financial assistance. In these final implementation guidelines, 
we have provided prospective applicants with additional information 
resources to document these requirements. For projects that are 
selected for funding, we will also offer additional technical 
assistance to facilitate the prospective recipient's understanding of 
the financial requirements. However, we are not in a position to modify 
the requirements for Federal financial assistance in order to simplify 
the PSGP process. Therefore, it is important that recipients of PSGP 
funding clearly understand and comply with the Federal financial 
assistance requirements.
    Comment 17: Several commenters stated their support for the 
exclusion of PSGP funding for compliance with a Habitat Conservation 
Plan under section 10 of the Act (HCP) or other regulatory 
requirements. One commenter stated that the language excluding HCPs was 
too limited in scope and that fulfilling the commitments of an HCP 
should be allowed under the PSGP.
    Response 17: The PSGP was specifically designed to support 
voluntary efforts by private landowners. As a voluntary program, we 
will not grant funding for projects that serve to satisfy regulatory 
requirements of the Act, including complying with a biological opinion 
under section 7 of the Act or fulfilling commitments of an HCP under 
section 10 of the Act. The PSGP was designed to fill a different need 
than assisting with HCP or other compliance efforts.
    Comment 18: Two commenters suggested that it was unreasonable to 
require applicants to identify the private landowners that would 
participate at the time of project submission.
    Response 18: We have revised this requirement to allow a project 
proposal to either identify some of the specific landowners who have 
confirmed their intent to participate in the private conservation 
efforts (not all participating landowners need to be identified at the 
time of the proposal submission) or to provide other information to 
demonstrate that the project, if funded, would have full landowner 
participation. In the cases where the project proposal is not submitted 
directly by the landowner(s), we need to know that the proposed project 
is highly likely to result in on-the-ground conservation actions. For 
example, if the project proposal does not identify which landowners 
will participate, then it must explain how the project will obtain 
landowner participation and ensure the landowner's commitment to carry-
through on the conservation actions proposed.
    Comment 19: One commenter requested that we require the projects to 
be community-based and supported by multiple entities.
    Response 19: We encourage community-based projects and those that 
are supported by multiple partners. We believe that such projects are 
likely to provide the greatest benefits. However, we do not want to 
revise the eligibility criteria to exclude individual landowner 
projects. As noted above, some of the most important and most cost-
effective projects for conserving an imperiled species are those done 
by a single or a few landowners located in key portions of a species' 
    Comment 20: Several commenters requested that we clarify who is 
eligible to apply for PSGP grants, specifically addressing States and 
Counties. In addition, others recommended we further limit eligibility, 
such as only funding projects that are in States not participating in 
the Service's Landowner Incentive Program.
    Response 20: We have revised the eligibility criteria to clarify 
this issue. The focus of the PSGP is to provide assistance to private 
landowners; however, we recognize that many projects benefit from 
partnerships between landowners and other interested participants. Thus 
the PSGP allows ``groups'' to submit project proposals. As the Service 
has another program specifically designed to facilitate State 
partnerships with private landowners, the Landowner Incentive Program, 
we believe it is appropriate to exclude State government agencies from 
the eligible ``groups'' under the PSGP. State agencies are encouraged 
to assist landowners in developing PSGP project proposals, to provide 
cost share when feasible, or to participate in other ways on project 
implementation. However, State agencies are not eligible to submit PSGP 
project proposals directly. We will consider other entities, such as 
Counties, other local governments, or State-funded universities, to be 
eligible groups that may apply directly for a PSGP funding to assist 
private landowners. Such proposals must identify at least some of the 
specific private landowners who have confirmed their intent to 
participate with them in the conservation efforts or other evidence in 
the project proposal to demonstrate full participation will occur.
    Comment 21: Two commenters recommended that we not fund projects 
intended to restore or offset habitat lost as result of incidental take 
permit (or other similar permit), unless it is to restore habitat above 
and beyond what is pre-permit (above baseline).
    Response 21: We do not see a conservation benefit in categorically 
excluding or further defining the eligibility of lands that may have at 
one time been covered under an incidental take permit. As discussed 
above, we will not award funds for projects that serve to satisfy 
regulatory requirements.
    Comment 22: Two commenters recommended that projects should have 
high probability of providing specific, demonstrable benefits to the 
target species, habitats, and ecosystem.
    Response 22: Proposals that articulate clearly and specifically the 
project benefits for the species, natural communities, and ecosystems 
and that explain why those benefits are likely to result from the 
project will be more competitive and more likely to receive PSGP 
funding. We will fund those projects that we believe provide the 
greatest benefits to the target species, habitats, and ecosystems.
    Comment 23: One commenter recommended that conservation easements 
be eligible for funding; another commenter recommended that land 
acquisitions or easements not be eligible.
    Response 23: We recognize that easements are very important tools 
for conservation. However, we also know there is an equally important 
need to fund on-the-ground management efforts. For the PSGP, we have 
chosen to focus on assisting with management rather than funding land 
acquisition through fee-title or easements. Although, we will not fund 
the purchase of easements under the PSGP, habitat improvements over and 
above any existing requirements for lands covered under current 
easements or other such conservation tools would be considered eligible 
for funding. The Service has other programs that specifically fund the 
acquisition of property.
    Comment 24: Many commenters made recommendations for the types of 
projects that should be funded through the PSGP, such as allowing 
flexibility in project type, suggesting specific types of projects, 
providing economic incentives for landowners to conserve species, 
including projects other than habitat management (reintroductions), or 
emphasizing habitat-focused projects.
    Response 24: We did not intend to provide an exhaustive description 
of the various projects that may be funded under the PSGP. We have 
expanded the list of examples. However, we recognize that there is a 
multitude of ways to benefit imperiled species conservation on private 
lands. Therefore, while we will not fund the acquisition of real

[[Page 61658]]

property either through fee title or easements, we are not excluding 
any other approach from consideration so long as it can demonstrate 
meaningful benefits to the imperiled species in question and meets the 
other eligibility criteria established for the PSGP.
Comments on Program Management
    Comment 25: Several commenters stated their support for the use of 
the diverse panels to assist with project selection. One commenter 
expressed concern that a diverse panel would lack focus and questioned 
the ability of panel members to be impartial and knowledgeable of local 
projects. The commenter suggested that local Service offices should 
decide on the prioritization of projects.
    Response 25: We believe that the diverse panels will aid in the 
selection of projects and also help build and maintain relationships 
between the Service and the diverse interest groups. We believe that 
the diverse panel members will offer perspective on project selection 
from an array of interests involved with conservation efforts on 
private lands. We will select panel members that are willing to fairly 
evaluate project proposals. As our experience in implementing the PSGP 
increases, we will consider how the diverse panels may be better used 
to improve the project selection process.
    Comment 26: Several commenters made specific recommendations for 
managing the diverse panels, including that the scientific community, 
agricultural interests, private landowners, and individuals with local 
knowledge should each play important roles on the panel. It was further 
recommended that the process used by panels should be systematic and 
objective, follow Federal requirements for public participation, ensure 
confidentiality and fairness, include a diversity of stakeholders on 
the panel, and be balanced with respect to the number of participants 
from various groups.
    Response 26: We will seek to implement the program using the 
concepts described in the President's Budget request and to ensure 
compliance with applicable Federal requirements. The size of each 
diverse panel will be largely at the discretion of the individual 
Service Regions. If more than one representative from each group is 
invited to participate on a panel, the Service will also seek a balance 
among the various interest groups on the panel. In order to minimize 
administrative costs associated with the panel and to keep the panel to 
a manageable size, the number of participants may need to be limited. 
For additional information on the use of the diverse panels, see the 
``How will proposals be selected?'' section above.
Comments on the Eligibility Criteria
    Comment 27: Several commenters made recommendations concerning the 
performance measures used to evaluate the success of the projects and 
requested that we provide greater specificity as to what should be 
included in a project proposal and what is required to obtain funding. 
One commenter recommended that we fully articulate all of the program 
requirements for prospective applicants.
    Response 27: We have revised and significantly expanded upon the 
project performance measures that must be included with each project 
proposal (see ``Project Proposals'' above). We have provided examples 
of measures as well as identified the specific Long-term and Annual 
Service goals that these measures will help the Service achieve. We 
have also provided expanded information on the requirements for 
obtaining Federal financial assistance (see ``Administrative 
Requirements'' above).
    Comment 28: Several commenters recommended that projects be 
required to include habitat baseline information, as well as monitoring 
and adaptive management protocols.
    Response 28: We agree with the commenters that this information 
would facilitate an evaluation of the project. However, this 
information is not always readily available to landowners. We encourage 
incorporation of this information when feasible. We have revised the 
proposal requirements (see ``Project Proposal'' above) to reflect this 
suggestion. Performance measures should be related to baselines when 
    Comment 29: One commenter stated that collecting information on 
effectiveness would have limited value since individuals collecting the 
data would not have necessary expertise, ability, and time, and the 
wide variety of projects would make comparisons of the project data 
impracticable. In addition, the commenter recommended that activity 
reporting should be limited to progress on time-lines or specific goals 
    Response 29: We agree that there are practicable limits to what 
information landowners may be able to collect. However, we also 
recognize that landowners often have an excellent understanding of the 
natural systems on their property and can provide significant 
information that will assist the Service in evaluating the 
effectiveness of the projects that are funded. We will work with 
funding recipients in the pre-award negotiations to identify what 
information is practicable and useful to collect to enable meaningful 
project evaluation. We agree that activity reporting should include 
progress on meeting time-lines or specific goals reached.
    Comment 30: One commenter recommended that performance measures 
should be based on objectives that will promote recovery and delisting 
of the target species.
    Response 30: We encourage project proposals to identify how the 
project will further the recovery goals for listed species or further 
the goals of other applicable conservation strategies. We believe that 
describing the performance measures in terms of the recovery needs of 
the species will strengthen the project proposal. The context for 
evaluating how the PSGP functions will be based on how the projects 
funded have contributed to the conservation of the target species.
    Comment 31: One commenter stated that in cases where the PSGP funds 
habitat restoration or management on lands currently under an easement, 
easement compliance should be one of the measures used to evaluate the 
    Response 31: We agree with the commenter that a project proposal to 
enhance an existing easement should identify how easement compliance 
will be incorporated into the project's performance measures. The terms 
and conditions of funding will incorporate this information.
    Comment 32: One commenter stated that performance measures should 
be consistent with any applicable performance measures developed by the 
State, Federal, and Tribal managers. In addition, the Service should 
consult with Tribal, State, and Federal managers on the measures to 
ensure they do not conflict or undermine other programs.
    Response 32: We encourage applicants to develop project proposals 
that are consistent with existing conservation programs. We will 
consult with others on project selection through the participation of 
the diverse panels. In addition, the Service will notify the States and 
Territories of project selections and share with the Tribes any 
information concerning projects that may affect Tribal trust resources.
Comments on the Selection Factors and Scoring System
    Comment 33: One commenter stated that we should give priority to 
longer-term commitments, though exceptions may be warranted in some

[[Page 61659]]

circumstances, and suggested that the relevant minimum timeframe might 
be the time required to recover the species. Another commenter stated 
that projects under a Safe Harbor Agreement should be given a lower 
priority, unless commitment to maintain improvement is for a 
substantial time period. One commenter stated that, in order to 
strengthen the duration of the benefits, the Service should establish a 
minimum time commitment.
    Response 33: Each project proposal should indicate the amount of 
time the habitat improvements or other project benefits will be 
maintained. In evaluating project proposals, we will consider the 
duration of the benefits (commitment for maintaining the project). When 
the Service makes the funding award, we will specify the terms and 
conditions of the award, including the time commitment for maintaining 
the project. We may consider establishing a minimum time commitment in 
the future as we gain experience implementing this program.
    Comment 34: Two commenters recommended that we consider the 
project's landscape context. It was also recommended that we give 
priority to projects in locations that are most beneficial to the 
conservation and recovery of the target species and include mechanisms 
to avoid enhancing ``habitat sinks.''
    Response 34: We agree with the comments that the landscape context 
of the project is critically important. We encourage applicants to 
describe in the proposal how the location of the project and its role 
in the landscape contribute to conservation of the species. For 
example, where is the project located in relation to other existing 
habitat? Does it promote connectivity between habitats? What is the 
size of the project area in relation to the habitat needs of the target 
species? We believe that proposals that include this type of 
information will better describe the project's benefits. ``Sinks'' are 
generally considered marginal habitat areas where the mortality in a 
population exceeds production. We disagree with the commenters that the 
PSGP should always avoid enhancing ``habitat sinks.'' Improving habitat 
conditions in ``sinks'' may provide substantial benefits to a 
population by reducing mortality rates. We agree project designers 
should carefully plan their projects to reduce the chances of 
unintended negative effects on local populations. As we consider 
projects for funding, we will be mindful of the important role 
landscape context plays in species conservation.
    Comment 35: One commenter recommended that in order to demonstrate 
results quickly the program should be tiered to separately consider 
projects underway and new programs.
    Response 35: We appreciate the commenter's suggestion, as it is 
important to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program. However, 
given the diversity of projects that are likely to be funded through 
the PSGP, we do not believe it is necessary to tier the program. Some 
projects will build upon existing efforts and show results more 
quickly, while others may require additional time.
    Comment 36: Several commenters recommended that we develop a 
selection factor that provides a higher priority to maintaining at-risk 
unique habitats or for projects that are part of large-scale planning 
efforts. Two commenters recommended that projects at an eco-regional 
scale, or that have benefits for habitats/natural communities of high 
conservation concern, should receive a higher ranking than more 
localized projects.
    Response 36: As previously discussed, the proposal evaluation will 
consider the benefits of the project. This will include a consideration 
of the larger conservation context in which the project would occur.
    Comment 37: Several commenters recommended changes to the project 
ranking factors and scoring system. These recommendations included 
expanding the point range, dividing or combining the ranking factors, 
adding considerations to the project assessment for each scoring 
factor, decreasing the subjectivity, and increasing the flexibility of 
the scoring system.
    Response 37: We do not believe simply expanding the point range 
would necessarily result in a better prioritization of projects. We 
believe it is important to maintain a simple scoring system in order to 
facilitate the review by the diverse panel members. Maintaining the 10-
point scoring system and relatively broad ranking factors will allow 
the diverse panel to quickly assess all the project proposals. They 
will then be able to focus further consideration on the higher ranking 
projects, from which to make their individual recommendations. 
Furthermore, as a new program, we would like to see the range of 
proposals that are submitted before increasing the complexity of the 
ranking factors or scoring system. As we gain experience working with 
the diverse panels and evaluating project proposals, we will consider 
revising the scoring system. We believe that the scoring system is 
sufficiently flexible to allow proposals of a variety of merits to 
stand out.
    Comment 38: Several commenters recommended that the number of 
species should not be used in the scoring system. Other commenters 
suggested it should be modified to include greater numbers of species, 
to weigh the benefits for each species, or to be combined with the 
importance of the project to better represent the overall contributions 
of the project.
    Response 38: We agree with the commenters that simply counting the 
number of species is of limited value when evaluating a project 
proposal. However, we believe it does serve an important function, 
which is to emphasize the requirement that projects must address the 
needs of listed, proposed, candidate, and other at-risk species. 
Therefore, we have maintained the number of species as part of the 
scoring system with a slight modification to more realistically reflect 
the number of species that are likely to be included in project 
proposals. We encourage applicants to include in their project proposal 
a discussion of the benefits for each species. The better a proposal 
articulates the benefits of the project, the more likely it will be 
selected for funding.
Comments Related To Awarding Funding
    Comment 39: Two commenters stated that ``No Surprises'' assurances 
should not be issued to landowners in association with PSGP funding. 
One recommended that if landowners desire regulatory assurances for 
their project they should seek Safe Harbor Agreements.
    Response 39: No Surprises assurances are related to fulfilling 
commitments of a Habitat Conservation Plan under section 10 of the Act. 
We will not be using the PSGP to fund activities related to fulfilling 
commitments of a Habitat Conservation Plan under section 10 of the Act. 
We agree with the commenter that Safe Harbor Agreements and Candidate 
Conservation Agreements with Assurances may be appropriate for some 
landowners that are concerned about potential land-use restrictions and 
would like regulatory assurances in connection with their project.
    Comment 40: One commenter stated a concern that large conservation 
groups will receive the bulk of the funding at the expense of local 
community groups; alternatively, another commenter stated that the 
Service should reach out to national conservation organizations that 
can leverage public funds before they are put into local projects.
    Response 40: While we strongly encourage project proposals that are 
based on cooperative efforts, we will

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focus the PSGP on selecting projects that provide the greatest 
benefits. In our experience, some of the best conservation projects, 
both those by local groups and larger organizations, are those that 
effectively engage local communities. Therefore, we believe the PSGP 
will reach local community levels, whether through individuals, local 
groups, or larger organizations. As we gain experience implementing the 
PSGP, we will continue to look for ways to encourage all types of 
project proposals.
    Comment 41: One commenter recommended that the format for 
agreements with landowners be flexible or appropriate for specific 
circumstances for which the grant has been awarded.
    Response 41: We will seek to have the terms and conditions of an 
award, and if appropriate for the project, any landowner agreements 
address the specific circumstances of the funded project.
    Comment 42: Two commenters stated that all projects should comply 
with the requirements of the Act and the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA). One commenter indicated that NEPA compliance would be 
beyond the ability of private landowners.
    Response 42: The Service, in cooperation with the grantees, must 
address Federal compliance issues, such as the NEPA, the National 
Historic Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act. For the 
projects that are selected to receive funding, we will work with the 
recipient to ensure compliance with these requirements.
    Comment 43: Several commenters expressed their support for time 
commitments, and one commenter recommended that recipients sign 
agreements that stipulate (1) activities to be carried out, (2) time 
commitment, and (3) return of pro-rated funding for default of 
    Response 43: The scope of work, as well as the terms and conditions 
for an award, will specify the activities to be carried out and time 
commitments for the project, and require compliance with applicable 
rules for receiving Federal financial assistance.

III. Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review
    This policy document identifies the eligibility criteria and 
selection factors that will be used to award grants under the PSGP. The 
Service developed this policy to ensure consistent and adequate 
evaluation of project proposals that are voluntarily submitted and to 
help perspective applicants understand how grants will be awarded. In 
accordance with Executive Order (E.O.) 12866, this policy document is 
significant and has been reviewed by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) in accordance with the four criteria discussed below.
    (a) The PSGP will not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 
million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a 
sector of the economy, productivity, jobs, the environment, public 
health or safety, or State, local or tribal communities. A total of 
$9,500,000 will be awarded in grants to private landowners or their 
partners to implement voluntary conservation actions. These funds will 
be used to pay for actions such as restoring natural hydrology to 
streams or wetlands that support imperiled species, fencing to exclude 
animals from sensitive habitats, or planting native vegetation to 
restore degraded habitat. In addition, the projects that are funded 
will generate other secondary benefits, including benefits to natural 
systems (e.g., air, water) and local economies. All of these benefits 
are distributed widely and are not likely to be significant in any one 
location. It is likely that local residents near projects where grants 
are awarded will experience some level of benefit, but it is not 
possible to quantify these effects at this time. However, the sum total 
of all the benefits from this program is not expected to have an annual 
effect on the economy of $100 million or more.
    (b) We do not believe the PSGP would create inconsistencies with 
other agencies' actions. Congress has given the Service responsibility 
to administer the program.
    (c) As a new grant program, the PSGP would not materially not 
affect entitlements, grants, user fees, loan programs, or the rights 
and obligations of their recipients. The submission of project 
proposals is completely voluntary. However, when an applicant decides 
to submit a project proposal, the proposed eligibility criteria and 
selection factors identified in this policy can be construed as 
requirements placed on the awarding of the grants. Additionally, we 
will place further requirements on proponents of projects that are 
selected to receive funding under the PSGP. These requirements include 
specific Federal financial management requirements and time commitments 
for maintaining habitat improvements or other activities described in 
the applicant's project proposal in order to obtain and retain the 
benefit they are seeking.
    (d) OMB has determined that this policy raises novel legal or 
policy issues and, as a result, this document has undergone OMB review.
Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)
    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996), whenever an agency is required to publish a notice 
of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effects of the rule on small entities (i.e., small 
businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). 
However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of 
the agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. SBREFA amended the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act to require Federal agencies to provide a 
statement of the factual basis for certifying that the rule will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. SBREFA also amended the RFA to require a certification 
statement. In this notice, we are certifying that the PSGP will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities for the reasons described below.
    Small entities include small organizations, such as independent 
non-profit organizations, and small governmental jurisdictions, 
including school boards and city and town governments that serve fewer 
than 50,000 residents, as well as small businesses. Small businesses 
include manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 500 
employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, 
retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in annual 
sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 
million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less than 
$11.5 million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with 
annual sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic 
impacts to these small entities are significant, we consider the types 
of activities that might trigger impacts as a result of this program. 
In general, the term significant economic impact is meant to apply to a 
typical small business firm's business operations.
    The types of effects this program could have on small entities 
include economic benefits resulting from the purchasing of supplies or 
labor to implement the project proposals. However, since this program 
will be

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awarding a total of only $9,500,000 for projects throughout the United 
States, a substantial number of small entities are unlikely to be 
affected. The benefits from this program will be spread over such a 
large area that it is unlikely that any significant benefits will 
accrue to a significant number of entities in any area. In total, the 
distribution of $9,500,000 will not create a significant economic 
benefit for small entities, but clearly a number of entities will 
receive some benefit.
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)
    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
August 25, 2000 et seq.):
    (a) We believe this rule will not ``significantly or uniquely'' 
affect small governments. A Small Government Agency Plan is not 
required. This program provides benefits to private landowners.
    (b) This rule will not produce a Federal mandate of $100 million or 
greater in any year; that is, it is not a ``significant regulatory 
action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. The PSGP imposes no 
obligations on State or local governments.
    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (``Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property 
Rights''), the PSGP does not have significant takings implications. 
While private landowners may choose to directly or indirectly implement 
actions that may have property implications, they would do so as a 
result of their own decisions, not as result of the PSGP. The PSGP has 
no provisions that would take private property rights.
Executive Order 13211
    On May 18, 2001, the President issued an Executive Order (E.O. 
13211) on regulations that significantly affect energy supply, 
distribution, and use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to 
prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. 
Although this rule is a significant regulatory action under Executive 
Order 12866, it is not expected to significantly affect energy 
supplies, distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a 
significant energy action and no Statement of Energy Effects is 
    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, the rule does not have 
significant Federalism effects. A Federalism assessment is not 
required. Congress has directed that we administer grants under the 
PSGP directly to private landowners.
Civil Justice Reform
    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the PSGP does not unduly 
burden the judicial system and does meet the requirements of sections 
3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. With the guidance provided in this 
policy document, the requirements of the PSGP will be clarified to 
applicants that voluntarily submit project proposals.
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)
    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501), 
the Office of Management and Budget has approved, and assigned 
clearance number 1018-0118, to this information collection authorized 
by the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations 
Act, 2002, H.R. 2217/Public Law 107-63 and subsequent Appropriations 
Acts. The reporting burden is estimated to average 8 hours per 
respondent for the project proposal and 4 hours per respondent for 
reporting activities. The total annual burden is 4,000 hours for the 
project proposals and 200 hours for reporting activities; the number of 
respondents is estimated to average 500 respondents for submitting 
project proposals and 50 respondents for the reporting requirements. 
The information collected does not carry a premise of confidentiality. 
Your response is voluntary. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a 
person is not required to respond to, a collection of information 
unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. The public is 
invited to submit comments on the accuracy of the estimated average 
burden hours for application preparation and to suggest ways in which 
the burden may be reduced. Comments may be submitted to: Information 
Collection Clearance Officer, Mail Stop 222 ARLSQ, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Washington, DC 20240 and/or Desk Officer for Interior 
Department (1018-0118), Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, 
Office of Management and Budget, New Executive Office Building, 
Washington, DC 20503.
National Environmental Policy Act
    We have analyzed this policy in accordance with the criteria of the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Department of the 
Interior Manual (516 DM 2 and 6). This draft policy does not constitute 
a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human 
environment. The Service has determined that the issuance of the policy 
is categorically excluded under the Department of the Interior's NEPA 
procedures in 516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1. The 
Service will ensure that projects that are funded through the PSGP are 
in compliance with NEPA.
Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes
    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations With Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with federally recognized 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. The effect of this policy 
document on Native American Tribes would be determined on a case-by-
case basis with the individual evaluation of project proposals. Under 
Secretarial Order 3206, the Service will, at a minimum, share with the 
tribes any information concerning project proposals that may affect 
Tribal trust resources. After consultation with the Tribes and the 
project proponent, and after careful consideration of the Tribe's 
concerns, the Service must clearly state the rationale for the 
recommended final decision and explain how the decision relates to the 
Service's trust responsibility. Accordingly:
    a. We have not yet consulted with the affected Tribe(s). This 
requirement will be addressed with individual evaluations of project 
    b. We have not yet treated Tribes on a government-to-government 
basis. This requirement will be addressed with individual evaluations 
of project proposals.
    c. We will consider Tribal views in individual evaluations of 
project proposals.
    d. We have not yet consulted with the appropriate bureaus and 
offices of the Department about the identified effects of this draft 
policy on Tribes. This requirement will be addressed with individual 
evaluations of project proposals.


    This notice is published under the authority of the Department of 
the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2002, H.R. 2217/
Public Law 107-63.

[[Page 61662]]

    Dated: August 15, 2002.
David P. Smith,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 02-24860 Filed 9-30-02; 8:45 am]