Metro Conservation Assistance Fund launched

Mayor Megan Barry this week announced the launch of Metro’s Conservation Assistance Fund, a new grant program to help accelerate the preservation of open and green space in Davidson County. A key recommendation of the Natural Resources subcommittee for Mayor Barry’s Livable Nashville effort, the Fund begins with an initial Metro investment of $500,000, which was recommended by Mayor Barry and approved by the Metro Council in June, to help leverage partnerships with successful conservation NGOs.

Creation of the fund will help to more effectively protect public or private lands with documented merits for natural-resource conservation or open-space preservation. Environmental nonprofits are encouraged to work with both landowners and Metro on targeted acquisitions and protective easements. Project applications are currently being solicited for a mid-September review by Metro’s Greenways and Open Space Commission.

“This public-private approach provides a much-needed tool for more strategically preserving our remaining green spaces, so that Nashville remains a beautiful, sustainable, livable city for current and future generations,” said Mayor Barry. “By partnering with our local nonprofits that have an established track-record on land conservation, Metro’s investments in open space will go further, and our Parks Department can be more flexible and nimble in this booming real-estate market.”

CAF grants will be made available for project proposals that preserve scenic view-sheds, supply buffer zones to current public-park assets, or protect sensitive habitats such as wildlife corridors, agricultural properties, and important natural areas (i.e., grasslands, ridgelines, or floodplain). Both urban and rural projects of public interest can qualify for assistance.

According to Plan To Play (the Metro Parks Department’s new strategic master plan) if Nashville continues its current rate-of-growth, an additional 4,000 acres are needed by 2027 in order to maintain optimal levels-of-service for public access to parks and greenways.

CAF grants can help defray the typical expenses associated with conservation easements, such as surveys and appraisals—making easement acquisition more achievable for some landowners.

Grants could also serve as matching dollars to area environmental nonprofits.

The Metro CAF is modeled after a highly successful State program, TDEC’s Heritage Conservation Trust Fund. Project applications will be accepted for review by Metro’s Greenways and Open Space Commission through September 15.

A second round of funding will be awarded to projects submitted by a spring deadline of March 15, 2018.