The Endangered Species Recovery Land Acquisition (RLA) Grant Program is one of four grant programs administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF) and authorized through Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The RLA Grant Program is part of what is known as the Nontraditional Section 6 Program, and provides funding to States and Territories for the acquisition of threatened and endangered species habitat in support of approved and draft species recovery plans. The RLA Grant Program is coordinated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Branch in California. There are two additional Nontraditional Section 6 grants available for Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition (HCPLA) and Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance (HCPA), both coordinated by the Habitat Conservation Planning Branch. The fourth type of Section 6 Grant available is known as the Traditional Section 6 Program and supports recovery projects for Threatened and Endangered Species Conservation and Recovery, and is also administered by CDFW Wildlife Branch.
Loss of habitat is the primary threat to most listed species and land acquisition is often the most effective and efficient means of protecting habitats essential for the recovery of listed species before development or other land use changes impair or destroy key habitat values. Land acquisition is costly and often neither the Service nor the States individually have the necessary resources to acquire habitats essential for the recovery of listed species. Recovery Land Acquisition grant funds are matched by States and other non-Federal entities (a minimum of 25%) to acquire these habitats from willing sellers.
As in previous fiscal years, in order to support high priority efforts of the Service and States, a process has been implemented whereby the Service Regional Directors are provided with 25 points total in each of the Nontraditional Programs to distribute among project proposals to reflect the collective priorities of the State and the Service. States and Service Regional Directors are asked to consider how a proposal may address conservation in the context of climate change when assigning these points to a proposal. All RLA Grant information, including the most current Section 6 federal funding Notice of Availability (NOA), RLA scoring criteria, available funding, approved projects, and grant cycle deadlines are available on the USFWS grant website.
Each year, a list of RLA project proposals are submitted to USFWS by CDFW, where they are subjected to a competitive federal scoring process described above. The number of projects funded each year is dependent on the amount of funding available and the amount distributed to each state. Once projects are approved, money is not available until Section 6 funds are allocated in the following Federal Fiscal Year.
A CDFW grant lead is required for RLA grant projects. The grant lead is responsible for the coordination and management the RLA grant, and to get approval through the CDFW Regional Office (of the Region where the project is located). The CDFW grant lead also coordinates the final proposal submission to the Wildlife Branch. Project coordination during project development with the appropriate USFWS Field Office staff prior to proposal submission is highly recommended.