Vermont's Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District Receives $674,000 to Protect and Improve Water Quality
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and partners across the nation together will direct up to $720 million towards 84 conservation projects that will help communities improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. These projects make up the second round of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) created by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Through the 2015 and 2016 rounds, USDA and partners are investing up to $1.5 billion in 199 strategic conservation projects. Projects are selected on a competitive basis, and local private partners must be able to at least match the USDA commitment. For this round, USDA received 265 applications requesting nearly $900 million, or four times the amount of available federal funding. The 84 projects selected for 2016 include proposed partner matches totaling over $500 million, more than tripling the federal investment alone.
“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program puts local partners in the driver’s seat to accomplish environmental goals that are most meaningful to that community. Joining together public and private resources also harnesses innovation that neither sector could implement alone,” Vilsack said. “We have seen record enrollment of privately owned lands in USDA’s conservation programs under this Administration, and the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program will be instrumental in building on those numbers and demonstrating that government and private entities can work together for greater impacts on America’s communities.”
RCPP draws on local knowledge and networks to fuel conservation projects. Bringing together a wide variety of new partners including businesses, universities, non-profits and local and Tribal governments makes it possible to deliver innovative, landscape- and watershed-scale projects that improve water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, soil health and other natural resource concerns on working farms, ranches and forests.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Vicky Drew said that Vermont received $674,000 in funding for one state-level project targeting water quality in Lake Memphremagog. “The Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District will lead this effort which aims to install conservation practices to address degraded water quality from agricultural runoff,” explained Drew. Vermont is also part of a multi-state RCPP project, led by New Hampshire, which received $5.2 million to assist private forestland owners in increasing the quantity and quality of young forest habitats.
“We put out a call for innovative and results-focused projects that will deliver the most conservation impact,” said Drew. “Our partners answered with creative, locally-led approaches to help producers support their ongoing business operations and address natural resource challenges in their communities, here in Vermont, and across the nation.”
Water quality and drought are dominant themes in this year’s RCPP project list with 45 of the 84 projects focusing on water resource concerns.
USDA is committed to invest $1.2 billion in RCPP partnerships over the life of the 2014 Farm Bill. Today’s announcement brings the current USDA commitment to almost $600 million invested in 199 partner-led projects, leveraging an additional $900 million for conservation activities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. See the full list of 2016 projects.
USDA invested $370 million in 115 high impact RCPP projects during 2015, including one project in Vermont, led by the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts, which aims to educate small farmers in the development of nutrient management plans to help reduce phosphorus and nutrient runoff into Lake Champlain. There were also two multi-state national RCPP projects funded in 2015 which included Vermont.