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USDA pours $72.1 million into Northeast's RCPP water quality

USDA pours $72.1 million into Northeast's RCPP water quality
USDA partnerships with private sector to double its $72.1 million investment in Chesapeake Bay and Northeast water quality and habitat improvements.

Last week, U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced 115 high-impact Regional Conservation Partnership projects across the country. More than $370 million in federal funding would be matched with an estimated $400 million more in partner contributions to improve water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment. The federal share of 22 projects in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic totals more than $72 million.

MORE CONSERVATION MONEY TO FLOW: On-farm conservation projects involving the Chesapeake Bay watershed, alone, are to receive $21.3 million to be matched by private partners.

"These partnerships empower communities to set priorities and lead the way on conservation efforts important for their region," noted Vilsack. They also encourage private sector investment so we can make an impact that's well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own.

"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. These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, outdoor recreation, and other industries."

Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller describes it as "a new venture conservationist movement that empowers and launches new, high-opportunity startup partnerships that deliver locally-led conservation solutions." Funding pools are broken out by major watershed, national and state. Here's a quick peek at projects slated for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic:

Chesapeake Bay critical area
• Accelerated Watershed Implementation Plans: $5.5 million. Lead partner is Maryland Ag Department. Aims to meet a large unmet demand for conservation programs to accelerate targeted, cost-effective conservation in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Implementation will be adapted to each state's high priorities and opportunities for innovation.

• Conservation in dairy and livestock landscapes: $7 million. Lead partner: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Target higher impact, priority conservation practices in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia subwatersheds, addressing conservation practices and habitat restoration for fish and

• Field-to-stream whole system conservation: $5 million. Lead partners: Nature Conservancy and the Delaware Maryland Agribusiness Association. Improve water quality in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia through advanced nutrient management practices on 95,000 acres; expanding, restoring and protecting wildlife habitat on 3,000 acres of wetlands and buffers.

• Mason-Dixon working lands partnership: $1.5 million. Lead partner:  Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. Bring significant financial resources to areas of Pennsylvania and Maryland to overcome common barriers to landowner adoption of conservation system. Focus: soil health and resilience, riparian forest buffers, restored wetlands and healthy forests.

National funding pool
• Lake Champlain Watershed of Vermont and New York: $16 million. Lead partner: State of Vermont Agencies of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and Natural Resources. Goal is to accelerate private lands conservation via models to target conservation practices for optimal environmental benefits, more extensive monitoring network, cost-sharing, plus an incentive-based Environmental Stewardship Program to provide credit producers for applied conservation practices.

• Appalachian Cerulean Warbler: $8 million. Lead partner: American Bird Conservancy. The project is to address habitat loss and water quality on private land forest habitat in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. Focus will be on conservation practices intended to enhance 25,000 acres of forest habitat on private lands for this at-risk species. Nature Conservancy has committed to enrolling 2,000 acres into easements. American Chestnut  Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and Green Forests Work will reforest up to 1,000 acres of reclaimed mine lands.

•Delaware River Watershed: $13 million. Lead partner: American Farmland Trust. This working lands conservation and protection partnership aims to award funds to important, well vetted restoration and land protection projects, especially with landowners preferring not to use government funding. It's anticipated to work with more than 600 farmers and 600 forest landowners on 35,000 acres. 

•Long Island Sound Watershed: $10 million. Lead partner: Connecticut Council on Soil and Water Conservation. Goal is to develop whole-farm management and easement programs for upland farms of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. The efforts aim to establish community resiliency areas via riparian areas plus land protection programs to protect agricultural and forestry areas.

State funding pool
A total of 14 Northeast state projects are funded under this RCPP round. They'll receive $8.1 million for work in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Catch those details on NRCS' website at RCPP.

Next week, we'll share more specifics on some of the Chesapeake Bay and Northeast projects.

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