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New USDA Conservation Program Awards $800 Million in 2015

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Sportsmen, private landowners to benefit via Regional Conservation Partnership Program,
which funds locally led solutions to problems facing fish, wildlife, water
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Sportsmen, private landowners to benefit via Regional Conservation Partnership Program,
which funds locally led solutions to problems facing fish, wildlife, water
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced close to $800 million in funding for locally led solutions to regional conservation challenges in 2015 via its Regional Conservation Partnership Program, earning praise from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which has championed the innovative measure. Water and wildlife take center stage in the projects slated for RCPP funding in the coming year, with half of the selected projects benefiting water quality and close to a quarter supporting wildlife populations. Water quantity and soil health also are primary objectives of RCPP partners, who will use RCPP funds to implement more than 100 high-impact programs across all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
The TRCP maintains that the RCPP, combined with the Conservation Reserve Program, will produce significant gains across the entire agricultural and forest landscape.
“We are thrilled that USDA will dedicate a majority of its initial RCPP funds to projects important to sportsmen and -women, such as enhanced habitat for sage grouse and salmon,” said Ariel Wiegard, TRCP director of agriculture and private lands. “The TRCP and our partners have long fought to ensure strong funding for important Farm Bill conservation programs, so USDA’s support of our priority landscapes is enormously positive.”
During the initial application process, the Natural Resources Conservation Service received more than 600 project proposals, dramatically exceeding expectations and representing hundreds of state, local and regional partners. The NRCS will award $370 million in RCPP funding in 2015, which will be bolstered by approximately $400 million from stakeholders.
TRCP partner The Nature Conservancy will take the lead on at least five projects and team up on several others. Larry Clemens, director of TNC’s North American agriculture program, celebrated the announcements, saying, “This is a transformative new program that will greatly accelerate the pace of landscape scale conservation in this country. We are grateful for this exceptional opportunity to work with farmers, ranchers and all of our partners who serve as stewards of America’s natural resources.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack launched the RCPP, authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, last May. The five-year, $1.2 billion federal conservation program awards funds to projects that improve soil health, water quality, water use efficiency and wildlife habitat, as well as activities that otherwise support natural resources on private lands.
“The RCPP will showcase the effectiveness of strong public-private partnerships in delivering creative solutions to natural resource challenges,” said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs at Trout Unlimited, which was selected for four RCPP projects. “It’s a great matchup, and America’s hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists of all stripes will reap the rewards.”
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