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News Release

NRCS Invests $3.5 Million in Innovative, Partner-Driven Conservation Project in California

Contact: Jolene Lau 530-792-5690 C: (530) 601-1595

DAVIS, California - Sept. 17, 2020 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced a $3.5 million investment for an innovative conservation project in California through Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). 

“Through these projects, partners are able to take the lead and leverage the flexibilities that make RCPP so effective,” said State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “Partners are delivering conservation in new and innovative ways, and by working together, we can harness our collective resources to produce greater results for conservation and agriculture,” he continued. 

The Sonoma Agricultural and Open Space District and partners propose a multi-objective project centered on the development of innovative riparian corridor conservation easements and source water protection forestland easements. The easements will preserve agricultural lands, help reduce regulatory burdens, restore riparian and forest ecosystems, improve habitat for at-risk and T & E species, protect source water (both surface and ground), and improve community resilience to extreme events including catastrophic wildfire and flooding.

Nationally, NRCS will invest $50 million in 10 conservation projects across 16 states. Through these projects, partners will contribute more than $65 million to amplify the conservation work that can be performed on agricultural land and privately owned forests across the nation.

Partners are given the liberty to manage an RCPP project and the associated relationships with participating producers and landowners. They identify those producers and landowners, contract with them, and carry out the technical assistance. In addition, through the AFA provision, NRCS has the authority to pursue innovative conservation approaches, such as pay-for-performance, that are not possible under RCPP Classic.

Visit the RCPP website for full project details or see the projects on this interactive map

More Information

While AFA projects were authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2018 Farm Bill enhanced the AFA provision and authorized NRCS to award up to 15 AFA projects annually. Through AFAs, approved project partners can work directly with farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners to carry out RCPP projects, as opposed to implementing projects through NRCS producer contracts and landowner easements. 

The Farm Bill statute highlights some project types that may be particularly suited to AFAs:  

  •  Projects that use innovative approaches to leverage the federal investment in conservation;  
  •  Projects that deploy a pay-for-performance conservation approach; and, 
  •  Projects that seek large-scale infrastructure investment that generate conservation benefits for agricultural producers and nonindustrial private forest owners. 

Farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners access RCPP through partner entities, such as conservation districts, producer associations, water districts, state or local governments, American Indian tribes, institutions of higher education, and nongovernmental organizations. 

For more information on the RCPP program, visit the RCPP website.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land. By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in delivering results for agriculture and conservation.