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News Release

Funds Restore Florida Longleaf Pine, Endangered Species Habitat

Roney Gutierrez


USDA selects first projects of new program

Gainesville, Fla., Jan. 14, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 115 high-impact projects across all 50 states, including Florida, will receive more than $370 million as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The program’s public-private partnership enables companies,  communities and other non-government entities to further conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife on a regional scale. Partners provide matching funding, with the total budget to be spent in five years.

In Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will lead the Regional Partnership for Conservation of Gopher Tortoise and At-Risk Species Habitat, an endeavor to save and protect threatened and endangered species by restoring dwindling habitat within almost five million acres in Polk, Osceola, Okeechobee, Highlands, Hardee, Desoto and Glades counties. The $2 million project will provide support for conservation planning, outreach and technical assistance through NRCS programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Multiple partners with forestry and wildlife expertise will apply conservation practices to improve forest stands, conduct prescribed burning, plant field borders, develop early successional habitat and restore rare or declining habitats. This effort will target the gopher tortoise, Florida panther, Florida grasshopper sparrow and other threatened and endangered species.

And in addition to this project, Florida will benefit from three national-level projects with one or more other states:

The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers Conservation Partnership led by the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District in Georgia will improve water quality and quantity in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, with a proposed budget of $8 million.

The Coastal Headwaters Forest – Longleaf Conservation and Restoration Partnership led by The Conservation Fund will acquire conservation easements and restore native longleaf pine in Florida and Alabama with a proposed budget of $10 million. Water quality and quantity to the Gulf of Mexico will be protected.

Securing Private Working Forests to Benefit Longleaf Pine, Threatened and Endangered Species and Military Readiness is led by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. The partners will target 20,000 acres of working longleaf in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana with a proposed budget of $24 million.

“Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges,” said Russell Morgan, Florida state conservationist for NRCS.

This year’s projects will engage hundreds of partners nationwide with wide-ranging interests, including communities, conservation districts, agribusiness, non-government organizations, for- and non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies and Tribal governments. In addition to USDA funds, partners’ will contribute an estimated $400 million, more than doubling USDA’s investment. The next announcement of program funding for fiscal year 2016 will be made later in the year.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or visit a local USDA service center.

See the list of all the selected projects on the national website.