USDA Announces New Conservation Partnership Program
Regional Conservation Partnership Program Goes Beyond Traditional Government Efforts to Allow Businesses, Other Partners to Invest in Conservation Projects
COLCHESTER, 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 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and will benefit areas all across the nation. RCPP streamlines 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. Only one of these three programs was previously offered in Vermont.
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 governments and others who are willing to invest money, manpower and materials into their proposed conservation project.
“Local decision making is empowered through this program. It brings together conservation groups, cities and townships, universities, agricultural associations and others to design conservation projects that are tailored to our needs here in Vermont,” said Vicky M. Drew, NRCS Vermont State Conservationist.
Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve natural resources on private lands. For proposals in Vermont, resource priorities include: soil erosion, soil quality, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and energy.
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 today, which will receive 35 percent of the program’s overall funding. While Vermont land is not eligible for critical conservation area funding, 65 percent of RCPP funding is still available through a national and state-level competitive process.
The USDA plans to invest $1.2 billion in funding for RCPP over the next five years, and expects to leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion in conservation efforts through this program.
“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 announcement of program funding is being posted on Grants.gov. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are dueSept. 26.
For more state-specific information on RCPP, please visit NRCS Vermont’s RCPP state webpage, or contact your local USDA Service Center http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/vt/contact/local/.
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