Northeast Regional Conservation Needs Grant Program 2.0

Northeast Regional Conservation Needs Grant Program 2.0

The Regional Conservation Needs (RCN) grant program was created as a mechanism to share expertise and funding by northeastern states to address landscape-scale issues, advance collaboration and likelihood of success, and result in more effective conservation of species. The first phase of the RCN program was developed in 2007, resulting in 47 funded regional conservation projects. The current phase, RCN 2.0, was developed in 2017 and projects are now underway.

Wood turtle

For more than 50 years, the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have collaborated on conservation priorities that transcend state or political boundaries. The most recent examples are priorities developed by State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP). States completed their Wildlife Action Plans in 2005 and revised those Plans in 2015. Portions of each state’s plan deal with rare species, hard-to-count species, habitats that cross state boundaries, and/or resources that are conserved most effectively on a regional scale.

By recognizing that numerous elements of individual SWAPs target conservation priorities common to all plans, the purpose of the RCN program is to develop, coordinate, and implement conservation actions that are regional/sub-regional in scope, and that incorporate and build upon the many existing regional initiatives. Participating states agree to pool 4 percent of their State Wildlife Grant funding from the USFWS to support cooperative projects that impact regional-level conservation and restoration initiatives that extend far beyond state borders. NEAFWA, FWS, Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), Terwilliger Consulting and many non-governmental organizations provided time, expertise and resources to the program. Landscape-scale wildlife conservation needs were addressed by combining agency resources, leveraging money and establishing priorities from SWAPs.

During the 10+ years of the first phase of the RCN program, 47 grant agreements were issued with a total of $3,411,216 of federal funds awarded. In several cases, grant recipients completed their projects for less than the awarded amount; therefore, the actual federal expense was $3,194,397. Grant recipients were responsible for providing at least a 1-to-1 ratio of non-federal funds (cash, in-kind services, waived overhead, volunteer expense). Grant recipients exceeded the 1:1 ratio and contributed $3,651,665 in non-federal match, allowing RCN federal funds to leverage $446,728 greater than was required. The RCN 1.0 projects identified shared, priority species, habitats, and threats and actions more efficiently accomplished through regional coordination. Now these products have been used as a foundation for RCN 2.0, the second phase of the collaborative work.

Through lessons learned from the first phase of the program, and looking ahead to future conservation goals, the RCN 2.0 program is guided by these principles:

  • Projects should be focused.
  • Projects should span several years and support larger initiatives (i.e. multi-year grants addressing a single project).
  • Projects should include a clear commitment to implementation of results on the ground to yield definite conservation benefits.
  • Projects should be “agency-generated,” not products of outside interest groups.
  • Projects should be non-complex and provide immediate outcomes.
  • Projects should identify and recognize multiple benefits to Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need, but also to other species.
  • There should be enough flexibility in the process to enable funding of work to address emerging or immediate conservation needs (e.g., newly emerged diseases).

Specific priority conservation outcomes were identified for RCN 2.0 in 2017; while six outcomes have been approved for the program, three priority outcomes are the focus of the program for 2018 to 2022. The priority outcomes of the 2018 – 2022 Regional Conservation Needs grant are:

  • Stabilize or increase populations of five priority Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need turtles. These turtle species will be the focus of conservation actions: Blanding’s, Eastern Box, Wood, Spotted Turtles, and Northern Diamondback Terrapins. This outcome resulted in Project 1: Strategic Implementation of Regional Conservation Priorities for Freshwater Turtles at Risk.
  • Restore and enhance habitats, with emphasis on early successional habitats, to benefit native pollinators. The result of this outcome is Project 2: Habitat for Pollinators: Improving Management of Regionally Significant Xeric Grasslands, Barrens, and Woodlands in the Northeast
  • Add new information to the Northeast Regional SWAP Database, to support ongoing collaborative work by states, the Service, and partners. This outcome produced Project 3: Technical Support and NE SWAP Database Management.

For more information and for future results of RCN 2.0 projects, visit

Photo Credit
American Turtle Observatory
September 14, 2018