Vermont and New York will receive $16 million in funding to benefit Lake Champlain for a new project through the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which brings together partners to improve water quality and promote a sustainable working landscape. The project is one of many high-impact projects across the country to receive more than $370 million in this new effort.
The USDA has approved 115 proposals in the initial funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which was authorized under farm legislation enacted by Congress last year. The projects selected for funding under the new initiative are designed to cut down on fertilizer runoff, expand bird nesting areas and restore native grasslands, and will encourage conservation partnerships between government and private organizations.
“This is a new approach to conservation. We’re giving private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in a new era in conservation that ultimately benefits us all.” ~ Tom Vilsack, U. S. Secretary of Agriculture.
The projects will share $340 million in federal funds, to be matched by $400 million from participating groups. Over five years, the USDA expects to spend $1.2 billion and raise at least that much from participating businesses, universities, nonprofits, local governments and Native American tribes.
The department solicited applications for funding of locally designed ventures designed to improve soil health and water quality while promoting efficient use of water and creating more wildlife habitat. Typically a project has eleven participating groups and agencies, but some have dozens. According to Vilsack, this will boost support at the community level.
“It’s the local folks who know the landscape. It’s the local folks who will be able to encourage landowners to participate. I learned as governor that if I went out and encouraged a farmer to create a buffer strip between their land and a river or stream, I might not be as successful as a neighboring farmer or someone from Pheasants Forever would be.” ~ Tom Vilsack
40% of the federal money will go to multi-state and national projects, including $16 million to Vermont and New York for improve farming practices that benefit the Lake Champlain watershed and $10 million to help rice producers in six Southern and Midwestern states improve water and habitat stewardship.
Another 35% went to projects in “critical conservation areas,” including the Great Lakes region, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the California Bay Delta, prairie grasslands, the South’s Longleaf Pine Range and the Columbia, Mississippi and Colorado river basins. State-level projects received the remaining 25%.
USDA received more than 600 grant proposals. Groups that weren’t selected, may try again in the next round of funding.
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