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News Release

USDA awards $22 million for Oregon conservation projects under Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Sage Grouse protection, oak restoration, water savings among selected projectsNEWS_RELEASE_HEADER-UPDATED


Release No. 2015.01.009


Loren Unruh, State Programs Leader

Suzanne Pender, Acting State Public Affairs Officer

Portland, Ore. (January 15, 2015) -- Today officials with the Oregon USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced six conservation projects in Oregon selected to receive a combined $22 million in federal funding under a new, competitive Farm Bill program -- the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Our partners’ matching RCPP investments exceeded $23 million, resulting in a combined total investment of $45 million for RCPP conservation projects in Oregon.

The RCPP promotes partnerships across the public and private sectors to tackle high-priority natural resources challenges. Last year the Oregon NRCS worked with conservation partners throughout the state to submit 13 completed applications for consideration.

“This funding will help NRCS and our partners put critical conservation work on the ground in Oregon -- such as protecting species like sage grouse and the Fender’s blue butterfly, restoring native oak landscapes, and saving water and energy,” said Oregon State Conservationist Ron Alvarado. “We are honored to be among the states receiving the most RCPP funding. We believe this is a direct reflection of the commitment and dedication of our outstanding conservation partners.”

Nationally, USDA received more than 600 RCPP pre-proposals in the first year of the program. The Department funded 100 of those projects, totaling more than $370 million. Additionally, partners have contributed an estimated $400 million, more than doubling USDA’s investment.

Oregon’s six projects selected for funding are:

  • The Oregon Model to Protect Sage Grouse

NRCS Funding: $9 million
Combined Partner Funding: $9 million
Location: Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Harney, Lake, Malheur and Union counties
Lead partner: Oregon Association of Conservation Districts

This project will provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners in Eastern Oregon’s greater sage grouse habitats to enroll in 30-year Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances. These agreements allow producers and ranchers to continue sage grouse habitat improvement practices and be protected from future regulatory requirements should the species be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

  • Klamath-Rogue Oak Woodland Health and Habitat Conservation Project

NRCS Funding: $3 million
Combined Partner Funding: $450,000
Location: Klamath and Rogue River basins, Southern Oregon and Northern California
Lead partner: Lomakatsi Restoration Project

This project will preserve, enhance and restore oak habitats and their watersheds in 3,200 high-priority acres in Oregon and California. Many at-risk and listed species depend on quality oak woodlands that are threatened by conifer encroachment, densification, and severe wildfires in this project area.

  • Unlocking Carbon Markets for Non-Industrial Private Forest Landowners in the Pacific Northwest

NRCS Funding: $1 million
Combined Partner Funding: $914,000
Location: Includes Oregon counties Columbia, Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas; and Washington counties Cowlitz, Clark, King, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Mason, Kitsap, Grays Harbor
Lead partner: Pinchot Institute for Conservation

This project will provide opportunities for non-industrial private forest landowners in Oregon and Washington to participate in a regional carbon crediting program through the American Carbon Registry. Eligible landowners can receive financial and technical assistance developing a forest management plan and implementing pre-commercial thinning on their land to enhance carbon stocks. The carbon program generates carbon-saving credits used to mitigate for other industrial forms of carbon production.

  • North Slope Ochoco Holistic Restoration Project

NRCS Funding: $5 million
Combined Partner Funding: $7 million
Location: Three watersheds within the Lower John Day Basin – Mountain Creek, Bridge Creek, and Cherry Creek
Lead partner: Wheeler Soil and Water Conservation District

This project will use an innovative GIS approach to target priority treatment areas along the north slope of the Ochoco Mountains. Conservation practices will include pre-commercial thinning, irrigation efficiency projects, conservation easements, juniper removal, range restoration, spring developments, riparian restoration, and critical habitat restoration.

  • White River Irrigation Efficiency and Stream Flow Restoration Project

NRCS Funding: $2 million
Combined Partner Funding: $2 million
Location: White River and Tygh Creek watersheds, Wasco County
Lead partner: Wasco Soil and Water Conservation District

This project will remove six fish passage barriers to increase fish habitat access. It will also improve irrigation efficiency to save 7,300 acre feet of water annually and restore flows in 21.9 miles of stream. Identified activities will increase water quality, improve irrigation efficiency, and improve fish habitat in this critical area.

  • North Willamette Valley Upland Oak Restoration Partnership

NRCS Funding: $2 million
Combined Partner Funding: $3.9 million
Location: Yamhill and Polk counties
Lead partner: Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District

This project will restore and protect critical oak and prairie habitat in the North Willamette Valley—habitat that is vital to many plant and animal species, including the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly. The project will also incorporate long term conservation tools such as land acquisitions and conservation easements.

RCPP is a five-year, $1.2 billion USDA commitment; therefore, projects not selected in this first year may be eligible in subsequent years. The next announcement of program funding for fiscal year 2016 will be made later in the year.

RCPP projects are considered for funding under three categories: state projects, national projects, and projects within a designated Critical Conservation Area.

For more information about the RCPP, visit the Oregon NRCS website at



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