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2021 RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangement Projects

Great Plains Grasslands Conservation

Lead Partner: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Lead State: SD Partner States: CO, KS, MT, NE Zip Code:69365
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Prairie Grasslands Region Award: $7,780,000

Project Summary:

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and partners will combine RCPP funding with over $14 million in financial assistance contributions to undertake a regionwide effort to preserve and conserve threatened grassland ecosystems in the Great Plains region. Through the project, farmers in the region will implement grassland restoration and prescribed grazing systems on over 1 million acres. An estimated 350,000 acres of grasslands will be enrolled in perpetual conservation easements. Project partners plan to estimate the carbon benefits of project activities, and to report on the project's economic and social outcomes. The partnership anticipates that NRCS’s investment will help jumpstart the regionwide approach and secure increased support for the conservation of Great Plains grasslands.

Gunnison River Drought Resiliency and Restoration

Lead Partner: Trout Unlimited

Lead State: CO Partner States: Zip Code: 81230
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Colorado River Basin Award: $822,913

Project Summary

Trout Unlimited will restore wetlands and riparian areas while improving irrigation water management on at least five working ranches in three distinct tributaries to the Gunnison River. Extreme drought has impacted ag operations and wildlife populations in the area. These project activities will help producers conserve scarce water resources and support implementation of Colorado's Gunnison Sage-grouse and Cutthroat Trout conservation strategies. Project partners plan to use water sensors and wildlife surveys to report on project outcomes.

Illinois Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership

Lead Partner: Illinois Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Land and Water Resources

Lead State: IL Partner States: Zip Code: 61727
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Mississippi River Basin Award: $1,396,590

Project Summary

The Illinois Department of Agriculture and partners aim to establish a Climate-Smart Agricultural Champions program for Illinois producers committed to implementing Climate-Smart conservation practices and systems. The voluntary program will incentivize farmers to implement practices and systems that have both greenhouse gas and water quality benefits, supporting the State's Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Project partners will also formalize the creation of the Illinois Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership and create an Agricultural Climate-Smart Institute to establish educational and training programs to increase the adoption of Climate-Smart systems and practices.

Iowa Partners for Natural Infrastructure

Lead Partner: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Lead State: IA Partner States: Zip Code: 50246
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Mississippi River Basin Award: $8,000,000

Project Summary

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) along with project partners will establish a natural infrastructure-based project in priority watersheds within a 35-county area of Iowa. The project aims to improve outreach and expand landowner participation, with specific outreach directed to Historically Underserved landowners and producers. Project partners intend to reach at least 500 landowners through one-on-one communication. Project goals include the installation of 40 constructed/restored wetlands, resulting in conversion of 1,600 acres from working lands to natural infrastructure-based practices under long-term protection. IDALS and partners will provide financial assistance through a single, lead entity to establish and restore wetlands targeted to improve water quality, reduce GHG emissions, and increase wildlife habitat.

Maryland Clean Water Commerce Outcomes Project

Lead Partner: Sand County Foundation

Lead State: MD Partner States: Zip Code: 20657
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Chesapeake Bay Award: $2,739,000

Project Summary

The Sand County Foundation will leverage RCPP funding with funds provided by Maryland's Clean Water Commerce Act (CWCA), which funds the purchase of nutrient load reduction credits in the Chesapeake Bay. The project will help scale up the pay-for-performance program and expand access to nutrient reduction funding to more producers, including Historically Underserved producers. Many of the practices and systems implemented by farmers to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will have climate co-benefits, including reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Pilot Watershed Project

Lead Partner: Ohio State University

Lead State: OH Partner States: Zip Code: 45836
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Great Lakes Region Award: $6,839,113

Project Summary

Ohio State University and partners plan to establish a pilot watershed in the larger Western Lake Erie Basin to test water quality management strategies with the goal of reducing phosphorus concentrations in local water bodies. The project will improve water quality monitoring infrastructure and incentivize participation through an “agglomeration bonus” that increases payments as more producers implement practices. Project partners anticipate that implementation of project activities will help the pilot watershed reach the Great Lakes Water Quality threshold for the first time since water quality has been monitored in the watershed.

Saginaw Bay Watershed ASSET Program

Lead Partner: The Nature Conservancy

Lead State: MI Partner States: Zip Code: 48601
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Great Lakes Region Award: $1,922,131

Project Summary

The Nature Conservancy and project partners will increase the permanent adoption of strip till and cover crops in the Saginaw Bay watershed, an area with almost 700 sugar beet farmers who typically use intensive tillage practices that are hard on soils. The Saginaw Bay watershed is also home to substantial impairments in local water bodies. The project partnership will offer producers a comprehensive package of adoption incentives to support transition to a strip till system, ultimately reducing nutrient and sediment loss to nearby waterways. Overall the partners aim to achieve a 2,000 ton sediment reduction and a 9,000 pound phosphorous reduction; water quality, economic and social outcomes will be reported to measure project success.

Shasta Valley Farm and Fish Drought Resilience

Lead Partner: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Lead State: CA Partner States: Zip Code: 96067
Funding Pool: Critical Conservation Area Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Western Waters Award: $8,000,000

Project Summary

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and partners aim to support the implementation of a Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) designed to improve conditions for threatened coho salmon along 37 stream miles within the Shasta River, a tributary to the Klamath River. Local partners will deliver financial assistance to producers to implement critical water conservation projects while coordinating with State agency partners to monitor and account for in-stream flow improvements to ensure success of the project and the SHA. RCPP funding will be used to support planning, design, and implementation of high priority irrigation efficiency and stream restoration projects. These actions are designed to advance recovery of coho salmon while helping farmers improve the resilience of their operations during a time of extreme drought in the Klamath Basin.

Climate Action and Reforestation in Northern MI

Lead Partner: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Lead State: MI Partner States: Zip Code: 49738
Funding Pool: State/Multi-State Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): N/A Award: $5,393,506

Project Summary

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) will leverage RCPP funding and partner resources to make progress toward afforestation and reforestation goals under the Michigan Climate Action Plan by planting hardwoods and conifers on approximately 16,400 acres. The project, focused on Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula, could serve as a model for large-scale forest restoration on private lands. MDARD will coordinate all technical assistance using State foresters and also contract directly with private landowners to incentivize forest restoration activities. Long-term stewardship and maintenance of private forest lands will be encouraged through the development of management plans for forests planted through the projects. Project partners will report on environmental outcomes related to sedimentation, nutrient loading and carbon sequestered.

Enhancing Hawaii's Forests for Climate Resilience

Lead Partner: State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources

Lead State: HI Partner States: Zip Code: 96753
Funding Pool: State/Multi-State Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): N/A Award: $5,298,701

Project Summary

The State of Hawaii and project partners will pool public and private resources for landscape-level forest restoration in Hawaii, with locations selected for the highest potential carbon sequestration. These project activities will help address the global climate crisis and improve habitat for critically endangered bird species. Project partners will work with private landowners to plant 210,000 native trees and remove priority invasive plants from 1,650 acres, many of which are highly flammable and intensify wildfires. The partnership will report on project outcomes, including estimates of carbon sequestered.

Expanding Soil Health Through Carbon Markets RCPP

Lead Partner: American Coalition for Ethanol

Lead State: SD Partner States: Zip Code: 57042
Funding Pool: State/Multi-State Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): Award: $7,500,000

Project Summary

The American Coalition for Ethanol and partners will create a strong market driver for Climate-Smart Agriculture practices (no-till, cover crops, and nutrient management) for farmers in the grainshed supplying a farmer-owned ethanol facility in South Dakota. Project partners including South Dakota Corn Growers will incentivize Climate-Smart practices; quantify, verify and model the resulting soil health benefits; and use this data to secure participating farmers access to Low Carbon Fuels markets. This market access would generate an estimated $18.5 million in new revenue annually in the RCPP project area, providing farmers with the economic incentive to adopt, maintain or expand conservation practices without the need for continued NRCS assistance, leading to more durable conservation on the ground.

Healing Mine-Scarred Landscapes via Reforestation

Lead Partner: US Endowment for Forestry and Communities

Lead State: PA Partner States: KY, OH, WV Zip Code: 16866
Funding Pool: State/Multi-State Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): N/A Award: $2,178,500

Project Summary

The U.S. Endowment for Communities and Forests will establish an innovative approach to reforesting abandoned mine lands in the Appalachian region. The approach will leverage private capital and carbon market revenues to complement RCPP funding to finance the reforestation activities on private lands, where the majority of legacy mine lands exist. Through the project, 2.5 million trees are proposed to be planted and the sequestered carbon estimated and sold as carbon offsets. Beyond the climate benefits, the restored forest ecosystems will benefit a host of wildlife species including Golden-winged warbler and American woodcock. Satellite monitoring will be used to monitor site changes over time.

Middle Rio Grande RCPP

Lead Partner: Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District

Lead State: NM Partner States: Zip Code: 87068
Funding Pool: State/Multi-State Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): N/A Award: $2,889,610

Project Summary

The Middle Rio Grande Conservation District (MRGCD) and project partners will use its RCPP award to catalyze conservation efforts in the Middle Rio Grande Valley area of New Mexico. The project will pursue a holistic natural resource approach that integrates efficient use of water and enhancement of wildlife habitat. Project partners will use land management, short-term rental and easement activities to help producers increase the resiliency of their operations and adapt to long-term drought conditions. The partnership intends to target project benefits to Historically Underserved producers in the region.

Soil and Water Outcomes 2022-2023

Lead Partner: Illinois Soybean Association

Lead State: IL Partner States: IN, MO Zip Code: 62667
Funding Pool: State/Multi-State Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): N/A Award: $8,525,130

Project Summary

The Illinois Soybean Association and project partners intend to replicate and scale up an existing pay-for-performance model piloted in Iowa, with the goal of improving water quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in target watersheds in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. Through the project, farmers will implement conservation practices and systems on 140,000 acres of cropland. RCPP funding will be used to pay for the verified water quality outcomes while partner contributions from Nutrien Ag Solutions and PepsiCo will pay for the verified carbon reductions.

Upper Arkansas Forest Fund

Lead Partner: National Forest Foundation

Lead State: CO Partner States: Zip Code: 81236
Funding Pool: State/Multi-State Critical Conservation Area (if applicable): N/A Award: $5,714,286

Project Summary

The Upper Arkansas Forest Fund (UAFF) project intends to reduce the risk of severe fires in the Upper Arkansas River Watershed (in central Colorado) by treating a total of 13,500 high-priority acres. The National Forest Foundation and partners will implement forest restoration treatments on 300 private landowner parcels, covering more than 3,500 acres over five years. At the same time, project partners will treat 10,000 acres on adjacent public lands. Remote sensing and fire modeling tools will help partners report on project outcomes, measured by reduced fire risk and retained carbon storage capacity.

Award Totals

$74,999,480.00 Total Awards

$37,499,733.00 Total State/Multi-State Awards

$37,499,747.00 Total Critical Conservation Area Awards