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$3,740,000 in conservation grants coming soon

Hundreds of new conservation projects are expected to soon get underway throughout Minnesota thanks to a new $3,740,000 grant program that begins in September, the Department of Natural Resources has announced.

The grants from the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Partners Grant Program were recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, reviewed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The L-SOHC receives 33 percent of revenue generated by a state sales tax increase approved by voters in a constitutional amendment last November.

The new grant program was a high priority of the L-SOHC, according to Leslie Tannahill, DNR grant coordinator who will head the program.

"It is well known that there are many outstanding conservation organizations in Minnesota with great ideas and projects they would like to tackle if only they had the funding," Tannahill said. "This program will be exactly what they need to get those projects up and running."

Half of the grants awarded during the first round of the program will be for less than $125,000 and half for more than $125,000. The maximum grant amount is $400,000. A second round of grants will be offered if there are funds remaining after this fall's selections, or if the L-SOHC recommends additional funding for the program in fiscal year 2011.

Grants are available to local, regional, state and national organizations and government entities. Projects are eligible in the following categories:

• Restore or enhance fish and wildlife habitat on lands permanently protected by conservation easements or public ownership.

• Protect lands through acquisition of fee title or conservation easements and be open to public hunting and fishing during open seasons.

Organizations are required to fund 10 percent of the project from non-state sources and be able to complete the work and cover all expenses before being reimbursed.

Request for proposals will be out in late August with first-round applications due Nov. 3. Successful applications will be selected by Dec. 15. Program details are available at Final details of the program are still being worked out so interested organizations are urged to check the Web site regularly.