USDA, Partners Usher in a New Era in Conservation
Rob Fredericksen, Resource Conservationist
New conservation intiative goes beyond traditional government efforts
Alexis Collins, Public Affairs Specialist, 208.685.6978
BOISE, IDAHO, 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 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.
“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 Idaho,” said Jeff Burwell, NRCS State Conservationist in Idaho.
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 Idaho are included in the Columbia River Basin Critical Conservation 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 proposals in Idaho, priorities include: forestland health, rangeland health, soil health/soil erosion, species of concern wetland/upland, water quality, and water quantity. For more state-specific information on RCPP, visit NRCS Idaho’s webpage.
“This program is a prime example of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment in rural America,” Burwell said.
The announcement of program funding can be found here. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are due September 26.
To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.
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