The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements.
RCPP combines the authorities of four former conservation programs – the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Great Lakes Basin Program. Assistance is delivered in accordance with the rules of EQIP, CSP, ACEP and HFRP; and in certain areas the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention Program.
The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Collaboration: A partnership driven by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), which joins forces with more than 30 partners to help participating farmers improve soil health, reduce phosphorus and sediment loading and prevent harmful algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie basin by using a suite of conservation practices, working towards a 40% reduction of dissolved phosphorus. The partnership will use sophisticated targeting tools, like the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), to work with producers and landowners operating near the Maumee headwaters, an area identified as a source of high levels of excess phosphorus, to further education, conservation, restoration and sustainable use of soil, water and wildlife on a watershed scale.
2018 Funded Projects
Grasslands for Gamebirds (IDNR, Division of Fish and Wildlife): Thirty-two partner conservation organizations have come together to address inadequate wildlife habitat by developing grassland and pollinator habitat. The primary goal of the initiative is to develop and manage grassland and pollinator habitat needed by “at risk” bird species. Other goals are to improve soil health and water quality, and to allow hunting access to the habitat established through this initiative. The Initiative will focus on five focal regions located strategically throughout Indiana, in the Mississippi River Basin, that contain both the greatest need for grassland habitats as well as the most potential to improve grassland habitats and populations of birds species that depend upon them. The initiative will create at least 2,000 acres of grassland habitat on private lands.
2017 Funded Projects
The Southern Indiana Young Forest Initiative (IDNR, Division of Forestry): Established by 11 partner organizations with a history of conservation leadership in the state, this project will address a lack of early successional habitat and corresponding declines in at-risk wildlife species. The Initiative will focus on 43 counties in southern Indiana that contain the majority of forested land and provide the best opportunities for incorporating early successional forest regeneration into a predominantly hardwood forest landscape characterized by advanced forest succession. Partners will promote and use Best Management Practices, ranging from species-specific silvicultural guidelines to generalized private landowner management recommendations that benefit young forest indicator species like American Woodcock and Ruffed Grouse. The project intends to work in similar fashion to successful young forest initiatives on the east coast and in Wisconsin and lays the groundwork for the establishment of an Ohio Valley Young Forest Initiative.
The Big Pine Watershed Partnership (The Nature Conservancy): This project will further conservation in Indiana’s Big Pine watershed through the targeted implementation of nutrient and sediment reducing practices to achieve watershed water quality objectives. The partnership’s goal is to deliver an additional 8,000 acres of cover crops, 10,100 acres of nutrient management and 4,850 acres of Conservation Stewardship Program enhancements. Both practices and acreage targets will greatly accelerate progress towards long-term Best Management Practice targets identified in the recently completed Big Pine Creek and Mud Pine Creek Watershed Management Plan.
The Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies Partnership (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation): This project will restore, manage and conserve wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies on agricultural and tribal lands using four main strategies: conservation planning and assessment; habitat improvement and best management practices; building an adequate seed supply for milkweed and nectar plants; and, enhancing organizational coordination and capacity. This project will contribute to national goals in terms of habitat and increasing the number of monarch butterflies.
Soil Health on Reclaimed Mine Lands (Knox County SWCD): The partners will work with farmers, landowners and mine operators to implement a suite of soil health practices on reclaimed mine lands in order to improve the health of the soil, reduce the amount of sediment laden runoff reaching streams and rivers and improve wildlife habitat. The project will focus on the roughly 175,000 acres of reclaimed mine lands that are cropped in the Indiana counties of Vigo, Clay, Sullivan, Greene, Knox, Daviess, Gibson, Pike, Dubois, Warrick and Spencer.
2014-2015 Funded Projects
The first projects of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program have been selected. The three projects that effect Indiana are:
Indiana Watershed Initiative (The University of Notre Dame) – The project will assist with adoption of cover crops on 85 percent of cropland, and two-stage ditches along the majority of channelized ditches, in two targeted 12-ditch watersheds. Through water quality monitoring, the project will quantify the soil and water quality/quantity benefits from the implementation of these practices in the watersheds. Based on preliminary research, 40 to 45 percent reductions in nutrient loss are achievable with this approach, which will be monitored at the watershed scale. A key component of the project is to accurately document the effect of these practices on environmental conditions (water and soil quality) and estimate the full costs and benefits for both public and private interests. In addition, the data will support modeling efforts that will allow for broader conclusions regarding the effectiveness of these conservation practices, regionally and beyond.
The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development): A diverse team of partners will use a targeted approach to identify high-priority sub-watersheds for phosphorus reduction and increase farmer access to public and private technical assistance—including innovative demonstrations of practices that NRCS does not yet cover—in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Identified actions are coordinated with the Ohio Phosphorus Task Force Report and will move Lake Erie toward goals developed in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Annex 4 Nutrient Strategies. The partners will gauge success and monitor results using project-wide water quality monitoring and watershed modeling conducted by national experts from multiple scientific entities and institutions.
The Michigan/Indiana St. Joseph River Conservation Partnership (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development): The partnership strives to find solutions to increasing groundwater withdrawals and sediment and nutrient loading that are economically good for the farmer but also have multiple conservation benefits, including optimizing groundwater use, improving infiltration, and reducing nutrients and sediment while also improving wildlife and fisheries habitat. Innovative methods to target high-priority areas and appropriate conservation practices will take an already developed watershed management plan to the next level. Monitoring will be used to adaptively manage this project at various levels, from the field-scale to the entire watershed. Partners have a strong history of working with both NRCS and producers.