The United States has more than 9.8 million square kilometers of land and water, both publicly and privately owned. Now, through a Department of the Interior (DOI) program, local governments and tribes in the United States will be working to conserve, protect and restore sections of both throughout the country.
With so much land at risk because of climate change and nature loss, the Biden administration aims to conserve at least 30% of American land and waters by 2030.
The America the Beautiful Challenge brings together many U.S. government agencies, led by the Department of the Interior, to advance an inclusive and collaborative land conservation mission.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation working with DOI will award $91 million in new grants — with $50.7 million matched by grantees, for a total amount of $141.7 million — to 55 nongovernmental organizations, tribes, U.S. territories and state governments across the United States. Applicants were encouraged to apply if their grant proposals included utilizing Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge — a body of observations, oral and written knowledge, innovations, practices and beliefs developed by tribes and Indigenous peoples through interaction and experience with the environment, according to the White House.
“Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community in America,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “This work will create jobs, strengthen our economy, address equitable access to the outdoors, and help tackle the climate crisis.”
The Fort Belknap Indian Community received nearly $5 million in funding to increase bison populations in collaboration with the Blackfeet, Chippewa-Cree of Rocky Boy and Fort Peck tribal communities across Montana (above). The project will restore 23,000 hectares of bison habitat. The tribes will continue to work together to share information about bison and land management.
NFWF awarded one of the largest grants — just over $6 million — to the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in Washington state. The Yakama Nation will use the funds for seven habitat restoration projects on 623 hectares to reconnect passageways between land and water on more than 2,400 hectares, and to strengthen the climate resilience of people, wildlife and habitats across the land.
In North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will use $309,000 to work with multiple government agencies to conserve or protect rare, culturally significant species within the greater Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ ancestral landscape. This includes improved data management and modeling tools to maximize conservation efforts on the ground.
With a $723,200 grant, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community plans to help bring Lenape tribal youth back to ancestral lands (Lënapehòkink) along the Delaware River watershed and in portions of New York state to cultivate tribal identity and provide career pathways for the youth. The collaboration between three Lenape tribes will help cultivate tribal identity and cultural resilience through a youth immersion program and 18 youth fellowship positions.