Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative
The Mississippi River Basin
Healthy Watersheds Initiative
Through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), the Natural Resources Conservation Service and our partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Mississippi River Basin.
NRCS is currently calling on partners to help identify new small priority watersheds (12-digit HUC) for targeted water quality conservation assistance and to bring additional resources for conservation in these watersheds. NRCS state conservationists will select priority watersheds by March 13, 2015, with a final announcement of the selected watersheds and funding available in early April 2015. To get involved in watershed selections and to learn more about how you can partner with NRCS, please contact your NRCS state office.
Once selected, landowners and producers in these priority watersheds will be eligible for additional NRCS program funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Conservation partners — including conservation districts, state and local agencies, commodity groups, universities, and nonprofit organizations — can contribute to conservation implementation in a variety of ways, from watershed planning and outreach to landowners and producers, to providing additional technical and financial assistance, to assisting with monitoring progress toward goals in these watersheds.
Why the Mississippi River Basin?
Known as “America’s River,” the Mississippi River is North America’s largest river, flowing over 2,300 miles through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the centerpiece of the 2nd largest watershed in the world. The watershed not only provides drinking water, food, industry, and recreation for millions of people, it also hosts a globally significant migratory flyway and home for over 325 bird species.
NRCS has identified the Mississippi River Basin as a top priority due to water quality concerns, primarily related to the effects of nutrient loading on the health of local water bodies and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.
The 13-state Initiative builds on the cooperative work of NRCS and its conservation partners in the basin, and offers agricultural producers in priority watersheds the opportunity for voluntary technical and financial assistance.
The participating States are Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
The Initiative will build on the past efforts of producers, NRCS, partners, and other State and Federal agencies in the 13-State Initiative area by addressing nutrient loading in priority small watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin.
How does MRBI Benefit Producers?
Through MRBI, NRCS helps producers with voluntary conservation practices that conserve America’s natural resources in high-priority watersheds while ensuring economic viability of cropland and rangeland.
Conservation practices installed by producers will serve to avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff, prevent erosion and provide essential wildlife habitat. These practices benefit the natural resources of the Mississippi Basin and enhance agricultural profitability through reduced input and enhanced soil health (higher soil organic matter, increased infiltration and water-holding capacity, nutrient cycling, etc.).
How does MRBI Benefit the Public?
More than 50 cities and 18 million people rely on the Mississippi River for their daily water supply. The Mississippi River is the main stem of a network of inland navigable waterways 12,350 miles in length.
NRCS is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and state and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the tens of millions of people who live in and rely on the Mississippi River Basin.
NRCS is building a foundation of partners from non-profit and private organizations, local, state, and federal governments and individuals across the Nation. Whether these partnerships augment funding sources, increase return on investment, or provide boots-on-the-ground support, NRCS and its partners are committed to helping people help the land.
In addition to providing input for priority watershed selection criteria and the processes used to implement MRBI, partners will have a crucial role in encouraging and supporting producer participation. Partners’ involvement will be instrumental in a variety of ways, including:
- Providing information and conducting education and outreach activities.
- Forming agreements to provide staffing for technical assistance and education activities.
- Joining the State Technical Committee to provide input for future focus areas and watershed selection.
- Targeting their organization’s programs toward the Initiative’s watersheds.
- Assisting with monitoring, evaluation, and assessment.
Other opportunities to partner with NRCS include the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a new program created by the 2014 Farm Bill to further emphasize the focus on building effective partnerships and obtaining meaningful results for key natural resource concerns. One of RCPP’s critical conservation areas includes the Mississippi River Basin, directing additional funding to this region.