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News Release

USDA awards Conservation Innovation Grants for two Massachusetts projects

Diane Petit, Public Affairs Officer

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)

AMHERST, Mass. (June 4, 2021) –The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced more than $200,000 in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) for two projects that will stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and other natural resource issues in Massachusetts.

CIG grants fund projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations, leveraging the federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals. Grant recipients provide 50 percent of all project costs.

“These Conservation Innovation Grants will help spur creativity and problem-solving in the Commonwealth’s forests and urban farms,” said Dan Wright, Massachusetts State Conservationist for NRCS. “Across the nation, CIG grants allow the best minds in America to develop unique and innovative solutions that will help make conservation more efficient in the future.”

The following Massachusetts projects were selected for 2021 CIG grants:

American Farmland Trust: Conservation planning for urban agriculture ($96,275) – This project seeks to provide greater access to NRCS assistance programs to urban agriculture producers in Massachusetts. AFT will partner with urban agriculture organizations to provide direct technical assistance to urban producers through on-site learning events. Additionally, through relationship-building, interviews, and opportunities for feedback, this project will develop urban agriculture-specific resources to increase knowledge of NRCS application processes and protocols and will develop recommendations for NRCS to increase urban farmer participation in federal conservation programs in Massachusetts.

Research Foundation of SUNY: A collaborative approach for adaptive management of imperiled young forest dependent wildlife in Massachusetts ($103,747) – Early successional forest wildlife has declined due to habitat loss and invasive species. The State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) will work with MassWildlife and other partners on a project that will result in demonstration management plots, a best management practices guide for wildlife habitat in mid-successional shrublands, a workshop for regional land managers on the benefits and limitations of the proposed practices, outreach events and materials, and a peer reviewed publication on the response of New England cottontails, birds, bats, and other forest wildlife to management practices. The project will help to ensure the successful recovery of the New England cottontail, which has become a flagship species for cooperative conservation. The work will also promote an understanding of the role of high-quality New England cottontail habitat in maintaining biodiversity in northeastern forest ecosystems.

NRCS is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with the people of Massachusetts to improve and protect soil, water and other natural resources. The agency has offices in USDA Service Centers in Greenfield, Hadley, Holden, Pittsfield, Westford, Wareham and West Yarmouth, which work with local conservation districts and other partners to serve farmers and landowners in their area.