Natural and Scenic Area grants

Program purpose:

To increase, protect and enhance natural and scenic areas. This program is established in Minnesota Statutes 85.019

How it works:

Provides matching grants to local units of government for up to 50% of the cost of acquisition of natural and scenic areas. Minimal betterment activities are eligible as part of an acquisition project including site surveying, boundary signing, and immediate measures needed to stabilize the site and ensure the safety of users and active restoration efforts that would significantly improve the site’s natural resource values.

A separate application must be submitted for each unique park/natural and scenic area. Multi-site applications are not accepted. Applicants are eligible to receive more than one grant.For answers to frequently asked questions, click here.

Eligible applicants:

Cities, counties, townships and school districts.

Eligible projects:

Eligible projects include fee title acquisition and permanent easement acquisition. For more information, read the use guidelines in the Program Manual.

Minimum requirements:

Project proposals must have a total project cost of at least $20,000. The applicant must be the intended owner and manager of the property to be acquired.

Level of assistance:

Grants are reimbursed based up to 50 percent of the total eligible costs. The maximum grant award is $500,000. Costs must be incurred and paid for before reimbursement can be made. Significant progress must be completed on active projects before an additional proposal can be submitted.

Grant funding available:

There are two sources of funding for the Natural and Scenic Area Grant Program: federal and state funds. Federal funds come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Federal funding available for FY 2022 has not yet been allocated but should be at least $1.5 million for the Outdoor Recreation Grant Program and the Natural and Scenic Areas Grant Program.

State Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars have been recommended by the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and other state funding may be available but are subject to Legislative approval. Final amounts available will not be known until after the application deadline.

Funding priorities:

The 2020-2024 State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) is Minnesota's outdoor recreation policy plan. This plan was developed with public and stakeholder input. It establishes outdoor recreation priorities for Minnesota to assist outdoor recreation and natural resource managers, the state legislature, and the executive branch in decision-making about the state's outdoor recreation system and sets out criteria for awarding grants consistent with these identified priorities. This program focuses on the Strategic Direction, Acquire Land and Create Opportunities in the SCORP specifically identified under Strategic Acquisition.

The project review priorities will assess the natural resource qualities of the site such as endangered, threatened, rare or special concern species or communities, high quality native terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems, ecological viability, outstanding geological or physiographic features, protection of water quality and potential vulnerability to exotic species.

Scenic qualities such as bluff lands or other elevated terrain that afford an opportunity for viewing scenic vistas, viewing unique natural features, viewing unique historical or cultural features, and shore land properties that offer scenic vistas across lakes or streams will be assessed. Other review components include adjacent lands, educational and scientific values, open space and historical/cultural values and local government commitment.

Grant awards:

The Department of Natural Resources will review and rank applications during the spring of 2021. Preliminary grant awards will be announced in the summer of 2021.

Project period:

The project start date will be the fall of 2021 or later depending on requirements for environmental resources, historical and archeological resources, and federal approval, if applicable. All work must be completed by June 30, 2023. Most of our funding does not allow for a project extension beyond this date.

To apply:

The completed application is due March 31, 2021. If you would like feedback on your application, please submit it by March 10, 2021. 

 

Program contacts:

Audrey Mularie, Southern Minnesota, East Metro
[email protected] or 651-259-5549

Mai Neng Moua, Northern Minnesota, West Metro
[email protected] or 651-259-5638

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Division of Parks and Trails
500 Lafayette Road, Box 39
Saint Paul, MN 55155