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News Release

USDA Awards $7.85 Million to Florida Forest to Gulf Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Forest to Gulf RCPP Project Area Map

 

Contacts: Cynthia Portalatin, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist, cynthia.portalatin@usda.gov; Heather Obara, ACT Associate Director, info@alachuaconservationtrust.org

GAINESVILLE, Florida – Aug. 19, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is awarding $197 million for 41 locally led conservation projects through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Included in those projects is Alachua Conservation Trust’s (ACT) Forest to Gulf RCPP, which has been awarded $7.85 million to expand conservation programs in North Central Florida. ACT’s project was the only Florida-based RCPP awarded in 2022.

RCPP is a partner-driven program that leverages partner resources to advance innovative projects that address climate change, enhance water quality, and address other critical challenges on agricultural land. Administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) the program is designed to expand Farm Bill conservation by leveraging the resources of public-private partnerships.

“Our partners are experts in their fields and understand the challenges in their own backyards,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Through RCPP we can tap into that knowledge, in partnership with producers and USDA, to come up with lasting solutions to the challenges that farmers, ranchers, and landowners face. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of public-private partnership at its best, made possible through these RCPP investments.”

ACT will lead the Forest to Gulf partnership, which includes state and federal agencies, local government, other nonprofit organizations, and private stakeholder groups. Notably, this award will compliment other local and state land protection programs, including Alachua County Forever, Florida Forever, and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. In addition, it will expand funding for private lands management, with an emphasis on prescribed burning and forest management to improve wildlife habitat. This is the second USDA NRCS project for ACT, which was awarded $7.1 million in 2021 for its Surface to Springs RCPP project in the lower Suwannee River basin.

“By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in delivering results for agriculture and conservation,” said Juan Hernandez, NRCS State Conservationist for Florida. “We are excited to work with ACT and all of the contributing partners who have experience, expertise, and capacity to successfully carry out this project.”

ACT’s Forest to Gulf RCPP project area encompasses parts of Marion, Alachua, Levy, Putnam, Sumter Citrus, and Hernando counties, and is home to longleaf pine and critical wildlife habitat, including a large section of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. In addition, it contains large wetlands and floodplains associated with the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers, as well as one of the State’s largest estuaries along the Nature Coast.

“We are thrilled to receive this RCPP award,” said ACT executive director Tom Kay. “As one of Florida’s fastest growing areas, the Forest to Gulf region is in tremendous need of expanded conservation efforts, and we look forward to working with NRCS and our many partners to implement this program. It takes the combined efforts of public and private partners to implement large-scale conservation and this project provides the foundation for that effort.”

The Forest to Gulf RCPP will extend through 2026 and is made possible with partner contributions that will provide over $22 million for conservation easements, conservation lands acquisition, and private land management practices. In addition to NRCS, there are several contributing partners that will help make this project possible, including Alachua County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Forest Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Stetson University, University of Florida, Wildlands Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation, Putnam Land Conservancy, North Florida Prescribed Burn Association, Equine Land Conservation Resource, and the Cultural Arts Coalition. In addition, the program will offer expanded opportunities for education, research, and outreach to historically underserved landowners.

About NRCS RCPP

First authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands. Since inception, RCPP has made 589 awards involving over 3,000 partner organizations. Currently there are 401 active projects, with at least one active project in every state and area. Successful RCPP projects provide innovative conservation solutions, leverage partner contributions and offer impactful and measurable outcomes.

RCPP projects are awarded under two different RCPP funding opportunities: RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). RCPP Classic projects are implemented using NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners and communities, in collaboration with project partners. Through RCPP AFA, partners have more flexibility in working directly with agricultural producers to support the development of new conservation structures and approaches that would not otherwise be available under RCPP Classic. 

See the list of 2022 RCPP projects here or view the interactive map. 

As part of each project, partners offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding in an amount equal to or greater than the NRCS investment. Private landowners can apply to participate in an RCPP project in their region through awarded partners or at their local USDA service center. For more information about RCPP, visit the NRCS website

More on NRCS

NRCS, originally called the Soil Conservation Service, was created in 1935 as a direct response to the Dust Bowl. NRCS helps private landowners improve the health of their operations while protecting natural resources for the future. NRCS has 34 field offices throughout Florida with teams ready to help landowners with conservation programs. Contact your local NRCS field office for more information.

About Alachua Conservation Trust

ACT is an accredited non-profit land trust working to protect the natural, historic, scenic and recreational resources in and around North Central Florida. Since 1988, ACT has been instrumental in facilitating the conservation of nearly 56,000 acres of Florida land, including the direct purchase and protection of over 24,500 acres. ACT primarily works in 16 counties, owns and manages over 6,000 acres, and has collaborated with private landowners to protect an additional 6,212 acres through conservation easements. To learn more about ACT, visit www.AlachuaConservationTrust.org

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