Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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USDA Announces $260 Million Available for Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Applications sought with a focus on environmental markets, conservation finance

BOISE– USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced the availability of up to $260 million for partner proposals to improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. The funding is being made available through NRCS’ innovative Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and applicants must be able to match the federal award with private or local funds.

Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP investments of nearly $600 million have already driven 199 partner-led projects, including three projects in Idaho. The program challenges local leadership to establish partnerships that can include private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profits and other non-government partners to work with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners on landscape- and watershed-scale conservation solutions that work best for their region. This will be the third round of funding through RCPP, helping USDA build on record enrollment in all voluntary conservation programs, with more than 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on more than 400 million acres nationwide.

Across the country, locally-driven efforts are having a positive effect on conservation and production,” said Curtis Elke, NRCS state conservationist in Idaho. “RCPP serves as a valuable vehicle for matching federal investment and private capital to advance natural resource conservation. In Idaho, those proactive measures and special projects will address ground water recharge, water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat and agricultural production. Nationally, partners in the 84 new high-impact projects for Fiscal Year 2016 that were announced in February are matching USDA funding more than two-to-one for a combined investment of more than $720 million.”

We recognize the growing interest in leveraging private capital markets to foster impact investments in conservation, sustainable agriculture and forestry,” Elke said. “For this new round, we hope to see even more applications that support a sustainable agriculture market, the development of environmental markets and conservation finance projects.”

One of the 2016 high-impact projects announced this February, is The High Desert Drought Resilient Ranching project, led by Trout Unlimited. The project brings 17 partners from Idaho, Nevada and Oregon together. Idaho Nevada and Oregon ranchers have experienced a severe drought for the majority of years in the last 30-year cycle. This project is designed to help reduce drought impacts to wildlife and livestock in the Owyhee watershed and nearby communities in two adjacent watersheds. Project partners will work together to develop on-the-ground projects that keep water in streams longer for both livestock and wildlife. Project area selection will emphasize state and private land that currently provides habitat for three focal species – redband trout, greater sage-grouse and Columbia spotted frogs – or is adjacent to known populations and has the capacity to restore habitat for these species. NRCS plans to direct $1.3 million toward the partnership’s efforts.

USDA is now accepting proposals for Fiscal Year 2017 RCPP funding. Pre-proposals are due May 10. For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website.

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