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USDA invests $8 million in project to protect water quality in Southern Maine

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BANGOR, Maine (Sept. 22, 2020) – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced an $8 million investment for an innovative conservation project in Maine to help protect water quality and leverage other ecological benefits in the Sebago Lake watershed.With the grant funds, Sebago Clean Waters will conserve more land near the Crooked River, Sebago Lake's largest tributary, to protect drinking water, improve wildlife habitat, and provide increased recreational access. Photo credit: Jerry Monkman

The five-year award to the Sebago Clean Waters (SCW) coalition is through NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) program. Lead partner Portland Water District will manage the funds and work closely with other SCW partners to carry out their conservation work. The five-year grant will support forest conservation, land stewardship, aquatic invasives control, stream connectivity, and landowner outreach and education in the Sebago Lake watershed.

SCW partners will use the USDA funds to leverage another $10.5 million from public and private sources to supply the remaining funds needed to reach the initiative’s five-year goal of protecting 10,000 acres of high-priority forestland in the region, as well as to implement other watershed protection measures.

“The first step in providing safe drinking water is to protect the water source. This grant will enable the protection of thousands of acres of forests that naturally clean Sebago Lake,” said Carrie Lewis, general manager of Portland Water District.

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.

“Through these projects, partners are able to take the lead and leverage the flexibilities that make RCPP so effective,” Benjamin Naumann, NRCS assistant state conservationist Partnership Initiatives, explained. “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.”

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

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.

 

Read more about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

 

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