Biden launches America the Beautiful Challenge

By Cassie Ferri

Invasive species removal projects, such as the removal of non-native eucalyptus to allow for the return of native trees, are eligible for funding through America the Beautiful Challenge grants. Credit: SaMo Youth

The White House recently launched a nationwide challenge to invest $1 billion in conservation projects consistent as part of President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative over the next five years.

Dubbed the “America the Beautiful Challenge,” the administration hopes to facilitate the distribution of federal and private philanthropic contributions to accelerate land, water and wildlife conservation efforts across the United States.

Monetary contributions toward the America the Beautiful Challenge will be distributed through a new grant program administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Key focus areas of the initiative include conserving and restoring rivers, grasslands, forests, coasts and wetlands; creating wildlife corridors; building climate resilience; and expanding equitable access to the outdoors. The ultimate goal of the challenge is to raise and distribute $1 billion for community projects in these focus areas over the next five years.

“With President Biden’s bold leadership, this first-ever national conservation goal draws upon our best values—including collaboration, science and innovation—to help conserve and protect our lands and waters,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The America the Beautiful Challenge offers an opportunity to support local efforts led by those who know, love, and have a stake in their surrounding landscapes.”

President Biden emphasized the importance of facilitating equitable access to both the application and distribution of project grants. States, tribes, territories, local groups, non-governmental organizations and others will be able to apply for multiple grant programs through a single application managed by NFWF. All applicants will be encouraged to prioritize projects that uplift tribal communities, and a portion of funding will be set aside specifically to support indigenous-led efforts.

To kick off the challenge, the federal government has committed to provide $440 million, most of which is sourced from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to fund local projects in a wide variety of conservation focus areas. This $440 million commitment dedicates $375 million to ecosystem restoration projects; $10 million to projects improving water quality or restoring fish passage; $25 million for invasive species detection, prevention and eradication; and $5 million for increasing private landowners’ participation in priority conservation areas. The NFWF’s first request for proposals will be issued in early May, with proposals due by the end of July and funding awarded in November 2022.


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