Vital Lands Illinois funding criteria were established by land conservation leaders across Illinois. They are intended to help ensure the permanent protection and long-term stewardship of Illinois' most vital lands and build support for projects and conservation among public, private, and nonprofit organizations, other potential donors, and the broader public. Because requests for funding can be as varied as the landscapes they seek to protect, the criteria provide flexibility while setting a high bar with strong minimum standards.
Applicants must be well-managed, fiscally healthy 501(c)(3) public charities or certified public institutions registered in Illinois and in good standing. 501(c)(3) organizations seeking land acquisition funding must have conservation programs in Illinois and have adopted the . In the application process, organizations will be asked to describe and document their implementation of LTA Practices 6F and 6G.
Applicants will be asked to submit a detailed project budget, including acquisition, stewardship, and defense costs, and to explain how the stewardship and defense costs were calculated. The project budget or accompanying narrative should list all the funding obtained or requested for the project, the source of the funds, and the status of the request. The budget should include a narrative explanation of line items that may be unclear to us. The following reimbursable expenses may be included in the project budget:
* Grand Victoria Foundation will provide no more than 30 percent of the total dedicated funds needed for long-term stewardship and defense. Organizations seeking such funds must demonstrate their compliance with LTA Practices 6F and 6G. Organizations that do not seek such funds will be required to describe in their proposal how long-term stewardship and defense costs will be funded.
Grand Victoria Foundation makes land acquisition grants on a rolling basis. Applications may be submitted at any time.
To be considered for funding, please download and complete the Project Application and email it to the Foundation.
Eligible organizations with projects that meet the minimum requirements will be invited to submit a full proposal; organizations will be notified in writing of this decision. Proposals require a detailed narrative describing the organization and the project, along with the following documentation:
Proposals are reviewed by Foundation staff and a Review Committee of professionals with a variety of relevant expertise. Committee members are not affiliated with organizations seeking funding from Grand Victoria Foundation. Grantees will be contacted by Foundation staff as soon as funding decisions are made.
The following are examples of ways in which Illinois organizations have used acquisitions to pursue broader organizational goals and/or build support for conservation in the local community:
Build Membership and Support
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County is planning a members barbeque at its recently acquired site, the West Woodstock Prairie natural area. Ducks Unlimited, which cooperated in the project, is also planning a members event there. The idea is to introduce members to the site and build enthusiasm by demonstrating success. The Land Conservancy is also planning a reception for local community leaders in Woodstock to announce the project, attract attention to their work, build relationships, and earn goodwill for future projects.
When a Ducks Unlimited land protection project was designated as a waypoint on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, the group began planning a parking lot and interpretive signage to assist future visitors and is working to get coverage in the local newspaper. The story will be shared with the local Economic Development Council and Byway Board of Directors, each of which is made up of community and corporate leaders from the local area. Leaders will be asked to assist in securing financial support for future conservation projects.
Facilitate Other Deals
The Liberty Prairie Conservancy packages the stories and testimonials of landowners who have worked out conservation deals, including two families involved in recent deals who wish to remain anonymous, and uses them to communicate with other landowners about conservation options. The Conservancy presented the material at workshops which attracted over fifty attendees and other expressions of interest, and posted the stories on its website, www.libertyprairie.org.
The Natural Land Institute used the announcement of a recent conservation easement in an area north of Mississippi Palisades Park to communicate to landowners in surrounding Carroll County about the financial advantages of such conservation deals. As a direct result, the Institute has accepted two donated conservation easements to date and has been contacted by other landowners also interested in donating easements.
The Great Rivers Land Trust put together a video and a booklet about its recent acquisition of the Palisades Preserve and is using it to raise money for another parcel in the area.
Advance Other Conservation Agendas
The Natural Land Institute timed announcement of its acquisition of a portion of Milan Bottoms to coincide with the Upper Mississippi River Conference in Moline in August 2008. The Institute hired a wildlife photographer to document the natural richness of the area for a display at the conference, met with state legislators and city planning staff to inform them about the acquisition, and secured major coverage in the Quad City Times. The media attention, they hope, will ensure that local officials pay more attention to the impact of future development on the wildlife refuge. They also hope that introducing legislators to their efforts to preserve this area will help build support for sorely needed conservation funding in the future.
A workshop hosted by Ducks Unlimited and partners at a historic duck club briefed outdoor writers about the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan (IWAP), and the writers were taken on a tour of two land acquisition projects tied to the plan. The conservation groups shared resulting newspaper articles with members of the Illinois Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and met with the Caucus to highlight IWAP funding concerns and necessary actions. Legislation was introduced to restore funds critical to IWAP.
A conservation plan describes the current status of a certain species (or group of species), population objectives for those species, habitat conservation issues and objectives, and monitoring needs. Conservation plans for projects submitted to Vital Lands Illinois should comply with Land Trust Alliance Standard 8G (Documenting Conservation Values).
Conservation Programs in Illinois
The Basic Criterion #2e requires that organizations seeking funds through Vital Lands Illinois have current Illinois staff and have conducted landconservation-related activities in Illinois prior to requesting funding.
Government Agency with a Conservation Mission
Those government agencies that have as one of their primary purposes protection of land in order to preserve natural resources. Forest Preserve Districts in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are examples of such agencies.
Illinois Natural Areas Inventory
A statewide inventory of the highest quality, intact natural areas in Illinois maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (currently being updated with Foundation support by the Illinois Natural History Survey).
Illinois Nature Preserves Commission
The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission was created by the Illinois Nature Preserves Act, 525 ILCS 30/1, to secure natural areas for current and future generations. The nine-member Commission functions as part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It designates and then provides ongoing stewardship and defense for a statewide system of high quality, protected natural areas. The Act bestows very significant legal protections upon designated properties, backed up by the enforcement powers of the Illinois Attorney General. The Commission’s two designations, Land & Water Reserve and Nature Preserve, function as conservation easements. Public and private landowners may enroll qualifying properties in these programs. For more information, visit the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission’s website at http://dnr.state.il.us/INPC.
Illinois Wildlife Action Plan (IWAP)
To qualify for federal funding for state wildlife conservation, each state had to develop a comprehensive wildlife conservation plan. These plans outline goals and objectives for stewardship of all wildlife species, with special attention to species in greatest need of conservation. The Illinois Wildlife Action Plan has been recognized as one of the best in the country. Developed with input from 150 agencies and organizations, the plan includes campaigns to address: Farmland & Prairies, Forests, Wetlands, Streams, Invasive Species, Land and Water Stewardship, and Green Cities.
Land Trust Alliance Standards and Practices
These are guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust, which is run legally, ethically, and in the public interest, and conducts a sound program of land transactions and stewardship. The Land Trust Alliance originally developed the standards and practices in 1989; they were last revised in 2004. For more information, visit the Land Trust Alliance’s website at http://www.landtrustalliance.org/learning/sp
A parcel that, if lost, would have significant negative impacts on neighboring natural areas or, if secured, opens the door for future important deals.
The property that is being acquired.
An area of land identified by the applicant organization(s) needed to achieve a specific conservation objective. Project areas usually comprise a number of individual properties or parcels. Examples of such project areas from projects previously supported by Grand Victoria Foundation include Milan Bottoms, Emiquon, and the Cache River Basin.
Not to be confused with the term as used in the Internal Revenue Code, this category is intended to gauge the value of a project beyond protection of an ecologically important property and to identify project benefits beyond the primary conservation values being served through the acquisition. The criteria in this category have been drafted to push applicants to consider how their work can engage or benefit a surrounding community and, perhaps, tell a story about the importance of conservation to a broader audience. Examples of such benefits might include: protection of an aquifer or groundwater recharge area; providing resources that support local eco-based tourism efforts; preserving important historical or cultural sites; or supporting local outdoor education programming.
The Foundation’s use of this term is informed by the guidance Land Trust Alliance has provided through the Standards and Practices curriculum. In project budgets, the Foundation is willing to support the applicant’s efforts to raise the funds needed for the long-term care of the property. Examples of eligible expenses include: marking and maintaining boundaries, signage, monitoring the site regularly, paying taxes, carrying insurance, and protecting the important conservation attributes of the property. Routine land management activities, such as burning or invasive species control, would be included; extensive restoration expenses would not. Because building a broad constituency for the organization and its individual holdings is important, the Foundation will provide no more than 30% of the total dedicated funds needed for long-term stewardship. When requesting stewardship funds, the applicant should describe how the costs were calculated.