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Federal/private partnership brings in 4-to-1 taxpayer returns for conservation

Contact: Sarah Maxwell, (202) 720-0693

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2013 – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation partnership created $40.5 million out of an initial $10.3 million taxpayer investment in 2011 for on-the-ground conservation efforts throughout the United States.

Using a competitive grant-matching program that leverages private funds, the Conservation Partners Program will accelerate service to more than 4,200 farmers and ranchers to restore or protect 1.2 million acres in areas that have vulnerable species and habitat or other conservation concerns.

“This is a unique partnership that shows how the federal government can use its resources innovatively and address real conservation concerns throughout the country,” said Jason Weller, NRCS acting chief.

Because of its successful two years, NRCS has renewed the partnership in 2013. NFWF will make nearly $4.6 million available to match through a competitive process starting in March of this year.

The grants give organizations increased ability to provide more technical assistance to private landowners to improve their working lands stewardship.

Examples of the program’s projects include:

- Sotoyome Resource Conservation District in California will match $170,000 with $182,000 to improve drainage from working agricultural lands in the area to help streams and fisheries that are critical to Coho salmon.

- Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks will plant 642,000 longleaf pine trees on more than 1,180 acres of private lands to improve the habitat for 122 endangered or threatened species.

- Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts will capitalize on existing state and local relationships to improve range conditions that will benefit livestock operations and will also enhance habitat for at-risk species such as lesser prairie chickens.

View a full list of selected grant projects.

“These projects have helped restore wildlife habitats, conserve forests, improve water and air quality and ultimately benefit the livelihood of farmers, ranchers and communities,” said Weller.

The partnership, which started in 2011, allowed NFWF to leverage $900,000 of NRCS funds into more than $3 million for locally led conservation projects. These investments not only improved water and air quality but regularly employed biologists, foresters, pipe makers, welders, engineers and others from local communities.

The conservation work being done through the partnership is part of USDA’s emphasis on rural America to improve conservation efforts by pulling in public and private expertise and support.

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USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the Nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.

NFWF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that preserves and restores our nation’s native wildlife species and habitats. Created by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private funds.