USDA seeking partners for collaborative conservation projects

usdaWhen it comes to environmental stewardship, most are willing to jump on board, but few get to drive the train. Funds are scarce and existing rules and regulations don’t usually offer much of a change in scenery. That all changed about six years ago with a little program that allowed communities and conservation groups to sit in the engineer’s seat to design targeted solutions that work best for their areas.

First authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has added new “stations” across the country to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has helped clear the tracks along the way, working hand-in-hand with more than 2,000 partners to implement 336 active RCPP projects.

NRCS is now inviting more potential conservation partners to join us on this cross-country journey by submitting new RCPP project applications. Funding is open to a wide variety of entities to include private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts and universities. A full list of eligible entities is available in the Application for Program Funding on grants.gov.

RCPP has already leveraged nearly $1 billion in NRCS investments with close to $2 billion in partner dollars to achieve common goals. In this latest offering, the agency will award up to $360 million for locally driven, public-private partnerships. Entities may request between $250,000 and $10 million in RCPP funding through this announcement and are expected to offer value-added contributions to amplify impacts in an amount equal or greater to the NRCS investment.

RCPP has two funding pools – Critical Conservation Areas and State/ Multistate. Virginia partners will experience no impacts from a recent change in RCPP Critical Conservation Areas, which combined two existing CCAs (California Bay-Delta and Columbia River Basin) and added a new one (Northeast Forests and Waters). These changes were instituted to address public comments in a recent review of these target areas and their associated priority resource concerns.

“This partner-driven approach to conservation has already made a big impact in the Commonwealth with 11 existing projects benefitting Virginia agricultural producers and forest landowners,” said Acting State Conservationist Jon Hubbert. “We look forward to even more opportunities to collaborate under the new RCPP, which is more efficient and effective with greater flexibility for NRCS and partners to manage project funding.”

Proposals must be submitted through the RCPP portal by Nov. 4,. Interested entities can learn more about this offering by participating in a webinar for RCPP applicants scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 27.

Contact Stacey Bradshaw, Virginia RCPP Program Manager, at 804-287-1673 or Stacey.bradshaw@usda.gov or visit the RCPP website for more details.


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