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News Release

NRCS, Partners Usher in New Era in Conservation

Erik Suffridge

Bozeman, Mont., May 27, 2014–The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting proposals for a new conservation program authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are due Sept. 26, 2014.

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, nonprofit 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 Montana,” said Joyce Swartzendruber, NRCS state conservationist in Montana.

When matched by participating partners, NRCS’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.

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.

USDA Secretary Vilsack named eight critical conservation areas, which received 35 percent of the program’s overall funding. Part of Montana is included in Prairie Grasslands, one of the most threatened ecosystems in North America where native prairie and grasslands are essential habitat for a number species, including the sage-grouse and lesser prairie chicken.

The other critical conservation areas include the Great Lakes Region, Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Mississippi River Basin, Longleaf Pine Range, Columbia River Basin, California Bay Delta, , and the Colorado River Basin.

For proposals in Montana, priorities include water quality, water quantity, wildlife habitat, grazing land health, soil health, salinity, and forest health. Details on proposal submission can be found in the announcement for program funding.

For more state-specific information on RCPP, visit NRCS Montana’s webpage.