The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements.
RCPP combines the authorities of four former conservation programs – the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Great Lakes Basin Program. Assistance is delivered in accordance with the rules of EQIP, CSP, ACEP and HFRP; and in certain areas the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention Program.
RCPP encourages partners to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales.
Through RCPP, NRCS and its partners help producers install and maintain conservation activities in selected project areas. Partners leverage RCPP funding in project areas and report on the benefits achieved. The Secretary of Agriculture may also designate up to eight critical conservation areas to focus RCPP assistance.
Funding for RCPP is allocated to projects in three different categories.
Critical Conservation Areas
For projects in eight geographic areas chosen by Secretary. These receive 35 percent of funding. Learn more.
For nationwide and multistate projects. These receive 40 percent of funding. Learn more.
For projects in a single state. These receive 25 percent of funding. Learn more.
Conservation program contracts and easement agreements are implemented through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) or the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP). NRCS may also utilize the authorities under the Watershed and Flood Prevention Program, other than the Watershed Rehabilitation Program, in the designated critical conservation areas.
Kansas' priorities are:
- Soil Erosion: Wind Erosion
- Water Quality Degradation: Nutrients in Surface Water
- Water Quality Degradation: Nutrients in Ground Water
- Insufficient Water: Inefficient Use of Irrigation Water
- Plants: Degraded Plant Condition
- Fish and Wildlife: Cover/Shelter
- Fish and Wildlife: Water
Eligible Partners - Agricultural or silvicultural producer associations, farmer cooperatives or other groups of producers, state or local governments, American Indian tribes, municipal water treatment entities, water and irrigation districts, conservation-driven nongovernmental organizations and institutions of higher education.
Eligible Participants - Under RCPP, eligible producers and landowners of agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland may enter into conservation program contracts or easement agreements under the framework of a partnership agreement. RCPP assistance is also available independent of a partner if the land is located either in a partner project area or in a critical conservation area designated by the Secretary.
How to Apply
NRCS will release an announcement for program funding, that will outline requirements for proposal submissions for funding. NRCS will review partnership proposals according to the priorities identified in the announcement and make project selections. Upon selection of a partnership proposal, NRCS and the partner will enter into a partnership agreement through which they will coordinate to provide producers in the project area assistance. Partnership agreements may be for a period of up to five years. NRCS may extend an agreement one time for an additional 12 months if needed to meet the objectives of the program.
Producers may apply for RCPP assistance in several ways:
- At the producer's request, a partner may submit the application for participation in a selected project area
- Directly at their local USDA Service Center in a selected project area
The partnership agreement defines the scope of the project, including:
- Eligible activities to be implemented
- Potential agricultural or nonindustrial private forest operation affected
- Local, state, multi-state or other geographic area covered
- Planning, outreach, implementation, and assessment to be conducted. Partners are responsible for contributing to the cost of the project, conducting outreach and education to eligible producers for potential participation in the project and for conducting an assessment of the project’s effects. In addition, partners may act on behalf of the eligible landowner or producer in applying for assistance and for leveraging financial or technical assistance provided by NRCS with additional funds to help achieve the project objectives.
Before closing the agreement the partner must provide an assessment of the project costs and conservation effects.
2014-2015 Final Projects
The first projects of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program have been selected. More than 100 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.
How Projects Were Selected
Projects were evaluated on four criteria:
- Contributions—Projects will expand private lands conservation investment by leveraging partner contributions
- Solutions—Projects will provide real-time, measurable results to benefit individual farms, ranches and forests but also local economies and communities in watersheds and targeted geographic areas.
- Innovations—Partners will creatively design projects by drawing all authorities into an integrated project.
- Participation—Partners will pull new organizations into the fold and increase the diversity and number of stakeholders that participate in projects.
In Kansas, there is one multi-state project approved through a national ranking pool.
Improving Water Quality Through the Implementation of Forestry Practices and the Assessment of Riparian Systems in Kansas' Priority Watersheds (Lead Partner: Kansas State University—Kansas Forest Service)
Surface water reservoirs in Kansas have lost 40 percent of their storage capacity and waterways are experiencing stream bank erosion. By implementing forestry best management practices on 25,000 acres and creating a protection framework for remaining riparian forests in ten high-priority watersheds, this project will help sustain reservoir storage and wildlife habitat, improve the drinking water supply, and increase recreation opportunities. This project also supports the outcomes outlined in the Governor's Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas by sustaining and creating forest riparian conservation near Kansas streams.
State-level projects include:
Advanced Irrigation Water Management on the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas (Lead partner: Southwest Groundwater Management District No. 3)
This project will provide producers and crop consultants with telemetry-enabled soil moisture probes, water metering, and evapotranspiration measurement for near real-time monitoring. Implementation of this practice through RCPP will bring conservation and economic gains to producers in southwest Kansas.
Pheasant Initiative (Lead partner: Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism [KDWPT])
Pheasants are a socially and economically important resource to Kansas; however populations are experiencing challenges across their range. With the recent drought, loss of Conservation Reserve Program acres, and intensifying farming practices, the pheasant population is the lowest on record in Kansas. KDWPT and its partners have proposed a focus-area approach to intensify habitat management.
RCPP Fact Sheet (PDF, 391KB)
To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted
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