Governor McAuliffe announces $1.3 million from USDA to Department of Forestry

forestry12Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that a Virginia Department of Forestry resource conservation project is among 110 high-impact projects nationwide set to receive more than $370 million through the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), administered through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The VDOF project seeks to address the state’s top natural resource concerns through increased adoption of forestry management and conservation practices to retain forestland.

In announcing the selections on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlighted RCPP’s focus on public-private partnerships that enable state agencies, private companies, local communities and other non-governmental partners to invest in efforts to keep our land resilient and our water clean, while promoting economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, among other industries.

Speaking about the RCPP grant, Governor McAuliffe said, “I am proud to have worked alongside Secretary Vilsack, Secretary Haymore, and the Virginia Department of Forestry leadership to secure this win for the Commonwealth in our efforts to build the new Virginia economy. We must take the appropriate steps to retain, manage, and conserve working forestlands so we can ensure their value, longevity, and ongoing economic impact. This funding will help us accomplish that important mission. ”

“As we work with our private and public sector partners to achieve the Governor’s goal of growing our forestry industry and becoming the East Coast capital of agriculture and forestry exports, we need to do everything we can to promote forest management planning and practices,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “Forestry is one of the state’s largest private industries with an annual economic impact of $17 billion, contributing to more than 100,000 jobs across the Commonwealth.  Virginia’s forests, which provide many environmental advantages, cover about 16 million acres, or about 60 percent of our total landmass.  Beyond the critical conservation benefits provided by this grant, Virginia will also realize future domestic economic development and international trade possibilities for our numerous, high-value forest products.”

More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014.  Of those, more than 200 were invited to submit full proposals.  The VDOF project, “Forests – Fundamental for Conservation in Virginia,” is a collaborative effort with NRCS to help increase adoption of forest management planning and practices among Virginia’s more than 350,000 forestland owners through coordinated outreach, education and funding assistance.  Installed practices will offer statewide conservation benefits from cleaner water in the Chesapeake Bay to restoration of declining tree species like the Longleaf Pine and re-establishment of habitat for bobwhite quail and pollinators.  Landowner engagement through participation in the program will help ensure that forestlands are retained and enhanced for ongoing natural resource protection.

Virginia State Forester Bettina Ring said, “Well-managed, productive forests offer numerous conservation benefits, but the long growth cycle of trees can present a financial challenge for landowners seeking to retain and manage working forestlands.  By leveraging our strong partnership with NRCS, we can offer the technical and financial assistance needed to increase the adoption of forest management planning and practices among Virginia’s forest landowners.”

“With RCPP, we can put partners like the Virginia Department of Forestry in the driver’s seat to help us meet state agricultural and natural resource goals,” said Jack Bricker, Virginia State Conservationist. “Forests really are fundamental to conservation in the Commonwealth, and this $1.3 million project will help us get more conservation on the ground to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, control invasive species, and restore diminished tree species and habitat statewide.

The next announcement of program funding for fiscal year 2016 will be made later in the year.  For more information on Virginia RCPP projects, please visit www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.  To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA service center.

According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia’s largest private industries with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually.  Agriculture generates more than $52 billion per annum, while forestry induces more than $17 billion.  The industries also provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.  More information about the Weldon Cooper Center’s study can be found at http://www.coopercenter.org/node/2/publications/economic-impacts-agriculture-and-forestry-virginia-revised-2012.

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