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Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Men discuss conservation plan in corn field

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.

Benefits

RCPP encourages partners to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales.  Through RCPP, NRCS and its partners help producers install and maintain conservation activities in selected project areas.  Partners leverage RCPP funding in project areas and report on the benefits achieved. 

Eligibility

Eligible Partners - Agricultural or silvicultural producer associations, farmer cooperatives or other groups of producers, state or local governments, American Indian tribes, municipal water treatment entities, water and irrigation districts, conservation-driven nongovernmental organizations and institutions of higher education.

Eligible Participants - Under RCPP, eligible producers and landowners of agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland may enter into conservation program contracts or easement agreements under the framework of a partnership agreement. 

Funding

Funding for RCPP is allocated to projects in three different categories.

  • Critical Conservation Areas - Designated by the Secretary of Agriculture and represent an opportunity for many stakeholders to come together at a regional level to address common natural resource goals while maintaining or improving agricultural productivity.

  • National - National project applications should further the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and other related resources.  Applications that address multi-state resource concerns, and those that provide detail on how specific resource objectives will be monitored to assess outcomes, will be given priority under the national funding pool.

  • State - State project applications should address at least one of the national priorities or a state-identified priority, listed below. State priorities were identified by the NRCS State Conservationist, with advice from the State Technical Committee. Applications competing under the state funding pool should be located entirely within one state.

Conservation program contracts and easement agreements are implemented through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) or the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP).  NRCS may also utilize the authorities under the Watershed and Flood Prevention Program, other than the Watershed Rehabilitation Program, in the designated critical conservation areas.

Ohio Priorities

  • Water Quality Degradation

  • Soil Quality Degradation

  • Soil Erosion

National Ohio Projects 

Cerulean Warbler Appalachian Forestland Enhancement
Lead partner: American Bird Conservancy (ABC)
States: Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia
To address habitat loss, soil health, and water quality, the project will focus on suites of conservation practices intended to enhance acres of forest habitat on private lands for cerulean warblers, an at-risk species, and associated species. The Nature Conservancy has committed to enrolling additional acres into easements, and the American Chestnut Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and Green Forests Work will reforest acres of reclaimed mine lands to biodiverse forest.

Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative (CCA project)
Lead partner: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
States:  Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana
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.

State Ohio Projects

Clear Creek - Lead Partner: Highland Soil and Water Conservation District
This innovative project will implement a series of agricultural best management practices to protect water quality, improve soil health and provide habitat for at risk species in the Clear Creek Watershed. It will also help protect the City of Hillsboro’s drinking water supply and provide prescribed habitat for Ohio’s diminished Bobwhite Quail population and native pollinators. Project goals for conservation practices include the installation of 3,000 acres of cover crops, 3,000 acres of nutrient management, 6 acres of grassed  waterways, and certain prescribed wildlife management practices that improve habitat for targeted species. Implementation of BMPs will be prioritized upstream of the City of Hillsboro’s drinking water intake and within the wildlife focus area for Bobwhite Quail.

Promoting BMPs for Phosphorus - Lead partner: Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District
The Delaware, Knox, Licking and Morrow Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Upper Big Walnut Creek Water Quality Partnership will assist agricultural producers install phosphorus reducing best management practices on land in the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed. This watershed, located in Delaware County, drains into the Hoover and O’Shaughnessy Reservoirs, the drinking water supply for the City of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to the phosphorus reducing conservation practices, the proposal also provides for the installation of two enriched bioreactors, water quality monitoring and data analysis.

East Fork Watershed Nutrient Reduction Initiative - Lead partner: Clermont Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Nutrients and sediment, including phosphorus and nitrogen, transported in water leaving agricultural fields within the East Fork of the Little Miami River watershed ultimately contribute to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico and exacerbate locally occurring harmful algal blooms in East Fork Lake. The project sponsors will assist agricultural producers with installing nutrient and sediment reducing best management practices to improve water quality and reduce algal growth and create a smart phone app to assist producers make fertilizer and management decisions. Edge-of-field and in-stream water quality monitoring in conjunction with algae sampling will demonstrate the impact of this project on water quality.

How to Apply

NRCS will release an announcement for program funding, that will outline requirements for proposal submissions for funding. NRCS will review partnership proposals according to the priorities identified in the announcement and make project selections. Upon selection of a partnership proposal, NRCS and the partner will enter into a partnership agreement through which they will coordinate to provide producers in the project area assistance. Partnership agreements may be for a period of up to five years. NRCS may extend an agreement one time for an additional 12 months if needed to meet the objectives of the program.

Producers may apply for RCPP assistance in several ways:
  1. At the producer's request, a partner may submit the application for participation in a selected project area
  2. Directly at their local USDA Service Center in a selected project area

More Information

Ohio RCPP Contact

John Wilson
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
614-255-2480