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Stewardship program. logo
Apply (LUG)
for grants eligible for local units of government.
Apply (NCO)
for grants eligible for nonprofit conservation organizations.
Stewardship Grant lands.
Contact information
For more information, see:
Stewardship grant contact list

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grants

Nonprofit conservation organization application process

Nonprofit conservation organizations (NCOs) may apply for funding from eight Stewardship grant subprograms to help fund the acquisition of land and conservation easements.

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship NCO grant programs

Nonprofit Conservation Organizations are eligible applicants for the four grant subprograms listed below.

  • Natural areas
  • Habitat areas
  • Stream Bank protection
  • State trails

The next application deadline for grants from these four subprograms is March 1, 2020. DNR will consider all complete applications received or post marked by that date for fiscal year 2020-21 funding.

Applicants are encouraged to contact regional grant staff with any questions about the application process.

Timing of the Stewardship grant cycle

Applicants should expect 8-12 months between submitting an application and receiving funds. Eligible applicants, referred to as project sponsors, work with DNR Grant Specialists to plan projects, complete grant applications and all subsequent project reviews. Before completing application forms, please read the following description of the life-cycle of a Stewardship grant application.

Before applying

Contact your DNR grant specialist

We strongly advise applicants to contact your DNR regional Grant Specialists as early as possible. Grant Specialists can give you initial feedback on whether or not your project is likely to qualify for Stewardship funding and identify questions that need to be addressed early in the application process.

Make sure your organization is an eligible applicant

An eligible nonprofit Stewardship grantee is defined in state statue as "a nonprofit corporation, a charitable trust of other nonprofit association whose purposes include the acquisition of property for conservation purposes and that is described in section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code and is exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) of the internal revenue code. "

In addition to the basic eligibility requirements described above, any organization applying for a grant must also be able to demonstrate that it has the capacity to carry out and complete the project and provide for its maintenance over time. This determination is made when a group applies for a grant for a specific project.

Applicants must complete and submit the Stewardship Program Eligibility Application [PDF] Form 8700-290. In addition, organizations may be asked to submit the following items.

  1. Most recent IRS filing: organizations not required to file Form 990 shall provide most recent year-end financial statements.
  2. A copy of the most recent audit and/or most recent annual financial statements consisting of income statement and balance sheet.
  3. A description of an endowment funds or designated assets dedicated to long-term maintenance and management of property.
  4. A board-adopted resolution indicating the organization's commitment to continual progress toward implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices. A description of Standards and Practices is available from the Land Trust Alliance [exit DNR] .

Make sure your project is eligible

See grant program descriptions for information about the purposes of each grant subprogram and project eligibility. Stewardship grants cannot fund:

  • property that was acquired more than one year before a grant application is submitted;
  • property subject to restrictions or other covenants that prevent or limit the property from being managed for the conservation or public recreational purposes or that would preempt the Department's reversionary interests in the property;
  • property that is used or may be used for licensed game farms, deer farms, shooting preserves, forest nurseries or experimental stations;
  • property that will not be used for nature-based outdoor recreation ("nature-based outdoor recreation" is defined as activities where the primary focus or purpose is the appreciation or enjoyment of nature. Typical activities are hiking, wildlife or nature observation, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, canoeing and multi-use trail activities. Ineligible activities are activities where the primary focus is not appreciation or enjoyment of nature, such as sports that require extensively developed open spaces, swimming pools and tennis courts; or
  • property where negotiations were not conducted on a willing seller - willing buyer basis.

Consider the source of your match

Stewardship grants cannot exceed 50 percent of eligible project costs. Project sponsors must provide the remaining funds, known as "sponsor match" from non-state sources. While the DNR does not require that sponsors have their match in hand before awarding a Stewardship grant, we encourage sponsors to identify the source of their match as early as possible. The character of match funding may limit the amount or influence the timing of a Stewardship grant award. Read more on sponsor match under financing your project.

Resolve to apply for a grant

Every NCO Stewardship grant application must be approved by the NCO's Board of Directors. Your board's resolution must: formally request financial assistance, authorize a representative from the organization to act on its behalf and agree that the organization will abide the terms and conditions of the Stewardship program. (see a sample resolution in Appendix A [PDF])

Application materials

Applicants must submit one hard copy and one electronic copy of each part of the application material. Please submit electronic copies of each application document, rather than one large file of the whole application package.

Application deadlines are postmark deadlines. An application is considered complete only when all required attachments in the application checklist have been received.

NCO application forms and instructions

First-time applicants must submit

Real estate resources

Conservation easement projects must review and follow

Links to information referenced in NCO project scoring criteria:

Samples of maps required with applications

A caution to project sponsors about confidential information

The DNR takes seriously its responsibility to protect confidential data collected in the grant application process, including information about private land transactions. However, some provisions in state law require the DNR to reveal as public record some potentially sensitive project information, including the location of property, the purchase price and appraised value. If you have questions about what information can remain confidential in the grant application process, please raise those with DNR grant specialist.

Project evaluation

Ranking, review and notifications

  • Ranking - DNR staff evaluate eligible projects using scoring criteria that reflect each subprogram's purpose and priorities. Projects are prioritized for funding according to their score. Current ranking criteria are on the "application materials" tab.
  • Review - In addition to scoring each project, DNR review includes but is not limited to: appraisal(s); the land management plan; title review; archaeological, hazardous waste and endangered species inventories.
  • Notification of local governments - State statue requires that the DNR notify both the county and local governments with jurisdiction over the property that Stewardship funds may be used to purchase the property. Those governments have an opportunity but not an obligation to pass resolutions in support or opposition to the acquisition. The DNR must consider any resolution received within 30 days.
  • Additional approvals - If you plan to prohibit hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking or cross-county skiing, that prohibition will need to be approved by the Natural Resources Board. If your project is located north of State Highway 64, or if a grant award will exceed $250,000, it will need to be approved by State Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance.

Award and payment

Grant award and payment

  • Awarding the grant - After the project has cleared all reviews, the DNR will issue the Grant and Management Contract. By signing the grant contract, sponsors agree to the terms and conditions of the Stewardship grant award and the state's interest in the property. Stewardship contracts must be recorded with the title of the property acquired and will affect management and use of the property in perpetuity.
  • Grant payment options - Grant recipients have two options for receiving payment.
    1. The department can send grant funds for to closing through an escrow agent, usually a title company or an attorney. (See the escrow closing instructions for more information).
    2. If the sponsor has already purchased the property, grant payment for the land value will come as reimbursement. (See reimbursement instructions for more information).

To request payment, use form 8700-001 linked below.

Last revised: Wednesday December 04 2019