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News Release

USDA, partners usher in a new era in conservation

Jeff Harlow, Assistant State Conservationist (Programs)

RCPP InfographicSPOKANE, May 28, 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,” said Vilsack. “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. By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.”

The new conservation program, called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill  and will competitively award funds to eligible partners who design and implement conservation projects specific to local, regional, and national objectives. 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, sporting groups, universities, agricultural associations and others – to design conservation projects that are tailored to our needs here in Washington State and the northwest,” said Roylene Rides at the Door, NRCS state conservationist in Washington.

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 will be directed to the critical conservation areas;
  • 40 percent will be for regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process;
  • 25 percent will be for state-level projects through a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders.

Vilsack named eight critical conservation areas on Tuesday. Parts of Washington 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.

In addition to proposals that can be submitted to address natural resources in the Critical Conservation Areas or for the national competition, proposals can be submitted to address specific needs in the state of Washington. For proposals in Washington State, conservation priorities include: Water Quality Degradation, Inadequate Habitat for Fish and Wildlife, Soil Degradation, Air Quality and Degraded Plant Condition. For more state-specific information on RCPP in WA, visit NRCS WA’s webpage.

The announcement of program funding can be found at under catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 10.930, or linked here.

Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are due Sept. 26.

For specific application questions contact Jeff Harlow Assistant State Conservationist – Programs at or Sherre Copeland Partnership Liaison at

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit


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