The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a list of 115 projects across the country that will receive federal funding under the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a program created in the 2014 Farm Bill to leverage partnership contributions with federal dollars to fund projects related to water quality, supporting wildlife habitat and enhancing the environment.
In all, the 115 projects across all 50 states will receive more than $370 million from the federal government. According to USDA, the local, regional or statewide partners are contributing an estimated $400 million in partner contributions.
"These partnerships empower communities to set priorities and lead the way on conservation efforts important for their region. They also encourage private sector investment so we can make an impact that's well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, outdoor recreation, and other industries."
NRCS Chief Jason Weller says the new program puts USDA’s partners in the driver’s seat.
“Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to natural resource challenges."
Secretary Vilsack and Chief Weller were on site at a project in Arizona that received funding to restore fish and wildlife habitat along the Verde River. The Nature Conservancy was the partner requesting funds for the project. The project will enhance 6,000 acres of riparian habitat and improve irrigation on 1,000 farmland acres.
There were more than 600 pre-proposals submitted for RCPP funding in 2014. The competitive program awards funds to conservation projects designed by local partners, including private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers. Projects are focused on improving soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.
The next round of funding will be announced later in 2015. Chief Weller said projects not select this year may be eligible in subsequent years.
A complete list of the projects and descriptions are available on the USDA NRCS website.