USDA, Partners Usher in a New Era in Conservation
New conservation initiative goes beyond traditional government efforts
Release No. 2014.05.014
Loren Unruh, State Programs Leader
Sara Magenheimer, State Public Affairs Officer
Portland, Ore. (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.
“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 Oregon,” said Ron Alvarado, NRCS state conservationist in Oregon.
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.
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.
Vilsack named eight critical conservation areas, which received 35 percent of the program’s overall funding. Parts of Oregon are included in the Columbia River Basin area.
The Columbia River Basin provides habitat for salmon and steelhead, essential components of a healthy ecosystem and critical to Indian tribes and local communities. Loss of quality habitat due to pressures from population growth, threaten fish numbers and the overall health of the basin. With this Critical Conservation Area designation, USDA will build on existing strong partnerships in the basin to work with agricultural producers to improve water quality and quantity in order to restore critical components of salmon habitat, aid in the recovery of Pacific salmon, and protect public health and the environment while maintaining a strong agricultural sector.
For state-level proposals in Oregon, priorities include:
· Forest Health and Biodiversity: addressing pest pressures to promote a more resilient forest stand against fire,
· Water Quality: sedimentation, nutrients and temperature affecting aquatic species,
· Water Quantity: regarding irrigation efficiency and management,
· Wildlife Habitat Degradation: affecting strategic habitats in Oregon.
For more state-specific information on RCPP, visit NRCS Oregon’s state webpage.
“This program is a prime example of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment in rural America,” Alvarado said.
The announcement of program funding can be found here. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are dueSept. 26.
To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStartedor local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.
For more information about NRCS and other programs please visit the NRCS website at www.or.nrcs.usda.gov
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)
Local contact information is located in the telephone book under the federal government listing or can be found online at: www.or.nrcs.usda.gov.