The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will award more than $370 million to private landowners to help improve conservation practices in some of the most critical conservation areas of the country. The funding will go to more than 100 high-impact conservation projects all across the nation, and partners will more than double the public investment by contributing more than $400 million.
The awards come through the first round of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a new program in the 2014 Farm Bill administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It is a public-private partnership designed to focus conservation efforts on the most critical watersheds and landscapes. Under the program, local partners propose conservation projects specific to their region to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat and other natural resources on private lands.
Nearly 600 pre-proposals for RCPP funding were submitted to NRCS. Of those, 210 were submitted for final evaluation before today’s selection of more than 100 projects for funding. From the early proposals, partners requested nearly $2.8 billion in program funds—nearly six times the funding available—and leveraged nearly $3 billion.
Projects submitted to the USDA for the RCPP undergo a competitive process, under which USDA will award $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program. Those funds can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners, for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. In this first year, $370 million in USDA funding was available.
Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, workers and materials to their proposed initiatives.
Forty percent of RCPP funding was awarded to national and multi-state projects; 25% to state projects and 35% to critical conservation areas (CCAs) designated by the Secretary of Agriculture. These CCAs include the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Mississippi River Basin, Colorado River Basin, Great Lakes Region, Longleaf Pine Range, Columbia River Basin, Prairie Grasslands Region and the California Bay Delta.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture