North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants

PLJV BoundaryThe North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) provides federal funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the form of matching grants for projects that support long-term wetlands acquisition, restoration, and/or enhancement and that benefit migratory birds in the United States, Canada and Mexico. There are two programs: Small Grants and Standard Grants. Up to $100,000 is available for proposed projects in the Small Grant program. For larger projects, the Standard Grant program is best, with up to $1 million available per project.

The NAWCA national proposal-review committee relies on Joint Ventures to rank and evaluate proposals for their region (see map of North American JV boundaries), so it is essential that applicants work with the PLJV when developing NAWCA proposals within our boundaries (see map to right). We can help prospective grantees with conceptualization of the project, suggesting additional partners, writing and reviewing the proposal, and providing the necessary bird conservation information.

If you are interested in developing a NAWCA grant proposal, please contact Christopher Rustay at 505-414-0342 well in advance of the application deadline. All grant applications must be submitted through If you have not previously worked with the website, please access it at least three weeks prior to when you’d like to submit in order to receive a username and password.

Small Grants

The NAWCA Small Grants Program can help fund small-scale wetlands projects anywhere within the PLJV boundaries. Principal conservation actions supported by the program are acquisition, enhancement and restoration of wetlands, streams or wetland-associated uplands, as well as long term leases of these habitats. Up to $100,000 in matching funds is available per project. The application deadline is generally in the late fall. In addition to the regular application process, certain portions of the proposal will also need to be submitted under

If a project has good wetland conservation value, brings partners together, and contributes to conservation plans, the project will rank well. NAWCA Small Grants have been used to fund a variety of wetland conservation practices in the PLJV region, from straight-out acquisition, like the Shaffer Playa project in Oklahoma, to invasive species removal, as demonstrated by a Huerfano Lake restoration project in Colorado.

Wetland Priority Areas

To improve the likelihood of funding, be sure to look at wetland priority areas and mention if the project is within a priority area in your proposal. If a project is within one of these areas, the proposal has a better chance of getting funded. View maps of each of the four bird plan priority areas at the links below or use the interactive NAWCA Project Location Query website.

If your project involves one or more playas, check to see if they are a PLJV priority using our Playa Decision Support System and, if so, mention it in your proposal. Different priorities will come into play based on the type of work that you are trying to do. In general, playas that are being protected are prioritized under the “Avoid Development” prioritization, while playas that need restoration will be prioritized under “Restoration” or “Grass Buffering.”

More Information

For more information about navigating the NAWCA Small Grant application process, read tips from a successful grant applicant. The PLJV has also developed a NAWCA Small Grant Checklist to help applicants stay on top of proposal requirements. We can also help direct applicants to planning efforts and help determine the value of the project to birds in the area.

Standard Grants

Developing a NAWCA Standard Grant takes a significant amount of time, regardless of whether you are a first-time or seasoned applicant. If you are considering applying for a NAWCA grant and have not gone through the proposal process before — and even if you have — the PLJV Standard NAWCA Timeline can give you a good understanding of the process. Application deadlines are twice a year in March and July. Applications must be submitted through

In 2008, NAWCA staff organized a meeting at the 2008 Land Trust Rally in Denver, Colorado. They presented the NAWCA process from both the grantor and grantee perspective. Presentations focused on proposal development and submission as well as what happens after a proposal receives funding. The PowerPoint presentations from those sessions are below. We encourage you to view all of them prior to embarking on this process.

Reading through the proposal instructions can be a daunting task if you aren’t familiar with them. Finding specific items can also be a challenge. Below you’ll find help with several key questions.

What can grant money be spent on and what kinds of funds are eligible as match?

Download the Eligibility Requirements for NAWCA Grant and Matching Funds for details.

How does my project fit into the bird plan priority areas for Technical Question #3?

View maps of each of the four bird plan priority areas at the links below or use the interactive NAWCA Project Location Query website.

How will the proposal be judged?

Partnerships are paramount to winning a standard NAWCA grant. As you can see from the scoring criteria below, the partnerships question offers more points than any other single question. Below, you’ll find two examples of partnerships that have scored very well on Technical Question #7. Partnerships without a variety of partner types and often those without a 2:1 match will not score well on this question and are likely not to get funded.