NRCS to fund two new regional conservation collaborations in Virginia
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will co-invest with Trout Unlimited and the Capital Region Land Conservancy to launch two new partnership projects that will address wildlife habitat, water quality and farmland preservation concerns in the Shenandoah Valley and the Richmond metropolitan area.
Funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), these initiatives are among 85 public-private collaborations just announced to tackle natural resource issues across the nation. Though the focal areas and approaches are different, all successful proposals offer compelling and innovative solutions to some of our country’s most pressing stewardship challenges. The Virginia projects will empower communities and private landowners to lead the implementation of local conservation activities.
Trout Unlimited seeks to enhance/restore native trout habitat and water quality in the Upper James, Shenandoah and Upper South Branch Potomac watersheds, where centuries of land use changes have increased temperatures and smothered streambeds with sediment. The nonprofit group is slated to receive over $2.9 million to improve land management in Rockingham, Page, Augusta, Highland, Bath, Rockbridge and Shenandoah counties.
“We are excited to collaborate with NRCS to provide additional technical assistance to farmers and help NRCS implement riparian corridor practices in targeted areas for water quality and habitat benefits in the Virginia headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Seth Coffman of Trout Unlimited. “This RCPP award will expand technical and financial capacity, giving producers more opportunities to implement streamside conservation practices that reduce erosion, increase resiliency to severe storm events and improve instream habitat for eastern brook trout and other native species.”
In the Richmond metropolitan area, the Capital Region Land Conservancy is taking on the challenge of protecting important farmland and natural habitats that are being lost at an alarming rate. More than 25 percent of the area’s agricultural land has been developed or converted to nonagricultural uses since 1982. The 501c3 organization will receive over $2 million to help reverse those trends by accelerating the adoption of conservation easements on farms in Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan counties and the City of Richmond. CRLC is among the first land trusts in the nation to explore RCPP’s new easement options, which include more flexible deed terms.
“We couldn’t be more excited to participate in RCPP for the first time” said CRLC Executive Director Parker Agelasto. “Our project will not only help to protect the working farms that support Virginia’s leading industry but also address some of the critical funding needs to expand urban agriculture in the underserved communities of Richmond.”
“These initiatives are just the latest in a long line of locally led partnership projects benefitting the Commonwealth’s landowners and residents,” said NRCS State Conservationist Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez. “Virginia has been the lead state for seven projects and a partner in four others that leveraged $33 million in partner funds to support out-of-the-box solutions to address a host of conservation concerns. We look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of this new collaboration with TU and CRLC.”
RCPP has been bringing new partners, resources and ideas to the table since 2014. This year, NRCS will invest $330 million to help local farmers, ranchers and forest landowners implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, enhance wildlife habitat and increase climate resilience.
The program funding announcement for Fiscal Year 2022 will be made this summer. For more information on Virginia RCPP projects, visit our website. To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA service center.