The first projects of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program have been selected. These 115 high-impact projects across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in Federal funding, and projects are leveraging an estimated $400 million in partner contributions to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment.
Nearly 600 pre-proposals were submitted in 2014. The top pre-proposals were invited to submit a full proposal, and NRCS received 210 proposals requesting $1.4 billion – four times the available funding.
How Projects Were Selected
Projects were evaluated on four criteria:
Projects will expand private lands conservation investment by leveraging partner contributions
Projects will provide real-time, measureable results to benefit individual farms, ranches and forests but also local economies and communities in watersheds and targeted geographic areas.
Partners will creatively design projects by drawing all authorities into an integrated project.
Partners will pull new organizations into the fold and increase the diversity and number of stakeholders that participate in projects.
Oregon’s six projects selected for funding are:
Klamath and Rogue River basins, Southern Oregon and Northern California
Many at-risk and listed species depend on quality oak woodlands that are threatened by conifer encroachment densification, and severe wildfires in this project area, covering portions of Oregon and California. Working with landowners, including historically underserved producers, and using a sound, science-based approach, the partners will target 3,200 high-priority acres recently identified in a Conservation Implementation Strategy to preserve, enhance, and restore the structural diversity, ecological function, and overall health and persistence of oak habitats and their watersheds.
Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Harney, Lake, Malheur and Union counties
Lead partner: Oregon Association of Conservation Districts
A thirty-year programmatic Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for greater sage grouse -- which is a mechanism to maintain or improve habitat and assist producers in meeting or avoiding the need for regulatory requirements under the Endangered Species Act--has been developed for private lands in Harney County, Oregon, and similar agreements are currently being developed for the remaining six counties in Oregon within the range of sage-grouse. NRCS conservation practices are a critical piece to ensuring producers have the tools and financial assistance they need to successfully meet the terms of the CCA. The project has a goal to reach 40 percent of producers, and partners will provide additional technical and financial assistance, as well as monitoring support.
Includes Oregon counties Columbia, Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas; and Washington counties Cowlitz, Clark, King, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Mason, Kitsap, Grays Harbor
By aggregating landowners into groups, the American Carbon Registry (ACR) reduces transaction costs for carbon credit trading and allows small producers to participate. This project will target approximately 250 non-industrial private approximately 250 non-industrial private forest landowners in Oregon and Washington who wish to participate in a regional carbon crediting program and who possess lands in NRCS and state priority areas as defined in regional conservation strategies. Targeted parcels will be between 75 and 4,000 acres in size, with the majority being less than 250 acres. NRCS and partner assistance will cover much of the initial expense of participating in carbon projects, specifically the development of a forest management plan and subsequent implementation of pre-commercial thinning to enhance carbon stocks.
Three watersheds within the Lower John Day Basin – Mountain Creek, Bridge Creek, and Cherry Creek
Lead partner: Wheeler Soil and Water Conservation District
The Wheeler Soil and Water Conservation District in Oregon has a longstanding, collaborative program that focuses on the improvement and protection of natural resources for the betterment of agricultural producers, the local community, and fish and wildlife. Using an innovative GIS approach to target treatment areas, the partners will implement a coordinated and directed effort to expand upon the current work being done to address key natural resource concerns in a ridge-top to ridge-top manner. EQIP, ACEP, and CSP will be used to accomplish objectives including pre-commercial thinning, irrigation efficiency projects, conservation easements, juniper removal, range restoration, spring developments, riparian restoration, and critical habitat restoration. Success will be gauged by the evaluation of measurable objectives and the expansion of established monitoring programs.
White River and Tygh Creek watersheds, Wasco County
Lead partner: Wasco Soil and Water Conservation District
Partners for this project in Oregon have identified specific goals, already planned through a collaborative approach in the county. These include removing six fish passage barriers to increase fish habitat access and improving irrigation efficiency to save 7,300 acre feet of water annually and restore flows in 21.9 miles of stream. Identified activities will increase water quality, improve irrigation efficiency, and improve fish habitat in this critical area.
Yamhill and Polk counties
Lead partner: Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District
This project will provide investments to restore oak and prairie habitats in Yamhill and Polk counties to improve conditions for critical wildlife. Historic oak, prairie and savanna habitats have declined in the Willamette Valley, and efforts to restore this land will aid in the recovery of several endangered species, including the Fender’s blue butterfly. This project will strengthen existing partnerships and facilitate the implementation of numerous regional conservation plans and priorities.