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News Release

USDA, partners usher in a new era in conservation

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Pedro Ramos, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, 801-524-4552,
Ron Francis, NRCS State Public Affairs Officer, 801-524-4557,

Colorado River Basin to be one area of critical concern


Salt Lake City, UT, May 27, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the launch of what he calls “a new era in American conservation efforts” with an historic focus on public-private partnership.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” Vilsack said. “We’re giving private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations.”

The new conservation program, called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and will benefit areas all across the nation.  RCPP streamlines conservation efforts by combining four programs (the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, and the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion) into one.

The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.

 “Local decision making is empowered through this program– bringing together conservation groups, cities and townships, sportsmen groups, universities, agricultural associations and others – to design conservation projects that are tailored to our needs here in Utah,” said Pedro Ramos, acting NRCS state conservationist in Utah.

With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program will leverage $2.4 billion for conservation. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.

“This is an example of government at its best — streamlining multiple programs into one more effective effort, providing flexible tools, and connecting local citizens and organizations with resources that best address their priorities, protect and improve their quality of life, and propel economic growth,” Vilsack said.

The RCPP has three funding pools:

·         35 percent of total program funding directed to critical conservation areas, chosen by the agriculture secretary;

·         40 percent directed to regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process;

·         25 percent directed to state-level projects through a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders.

Colorado River Basin

Vilsack named eight critical conservation areas, which received 35 percent of the program’s overall funding. Parts of Utah are included in the Colorado River Basin listed as one of the critical areas. Resource concerns for this area are: Water quality degradation—excessive salts, insufficient water, soil quality degradation—concentration of salts, and inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife.

Irrigated agriculture is vitally important to the economy and quality of life in the Colorado River Basin. The area’s water use is shared among 33 million people in the U.S., plus three million in Mexico. Faced with historic drought conditions and water supply pressures, farmers, ranchers, Indian tribes and other water users are in urgent need of accelerated conservation on agricultural lands. With this Critical Conservation Area designation, USDA will build on existing strong partnerships in the region to accelerate conservation efforts to address these internationally significant conservation issues. USDA will focus assistance on promoting soil health, improving irrigation, addressing drought and helping to promote sustainable use of water resources throughout the basin.

For regional and state-level proposals in Utah, priorities include: Inefficient water quantity, Inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife, and degraded plant conditions from invasive plant species. For more state-specific information on RCPP, visit NRCS Utah’s webpage.

“This program is a prime example of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment in rural America,” Ramos said.

The announcement of program funding can be found here on the Grants.Gov website. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are dueSept. 26.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit



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