Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Texas State Conservationist Salvador Salinas announced Jan. 14 more than $10 million in funding for 2 new and innovative projects funded through USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. The projects bring together partners to the NRCS conservation mission in an effort to harness innovation and ideas, while demonstrating the value of voluntary, private lands conservation.
“RCPP is a different approach to investing in natural resource conservation that empowers local communities and demonstrates the importance of strong public-private partnerships in delivering local solutions to tough natural resource challenges,” Salinas said.
These water quality and quantity projects will focus on the restoration, protection and improvement of water and wetland systems on agriculture lands through conservation practices on 57 selected counties contiguous to the Gulf of Mexico.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced that these projects are just 2 of more than 115 high-impact projects across all 50 states that will receive more than $370 million as part of this new RCPP effort.
This year’s projects in Texas will accomplish a wide diversity of agricultural and natural resource goals from helping to protect important drinking water supplies and providing essential habitat for many at-risk species, to making farms and ranches more sustainable and addressing important waterways like the Gulf of Mexico.
RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation.
“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” said Salinas. “Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.”
One of the Texas RCPP projects is the Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Improvement Initiative, with Texas Water Resources Institute as the lead partner. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is experiencing significant population growth which, has contributed to degraded water quality and limited water supplies. This has increased the need for improved irrigation efficiency. Partners, funds and educational efforts will be leveraged to work with landowners to reduce nutrient and sediment loading in local water bodies, as well as improve agricultural water use efficiency. This project will also enhance agricultural production in the Valley.
The other Texas project is the Texas Gulf Coast Stream and Wetland Initiative, with the Resource Institute Inc. as the lead partner. The Texas Gulf Coast region is experiencing rapid growth and development that is putting pressure on aquatic resources and contributing to the degradation of the Gulf of Mexico. The project will focus on the restoration and protection of headwater stream and wetland systems on agriculture land to improve function and provide protection against future developmental impacts.
It will also work to improve water quality and quantity, reduce soil erosion, and enhance/create habitat for at risk species through education, outreach and engagement of landowners and land managers for installing conservation practices on their land.
Texas is also part of a national project Rice Stewardship Partnership – Sustaining the Future of Rice, with lead partner Ducks Unlimited, Inc. (DU). The Rice Stewardship Partnership, comprised of DU, the USA Rice Federation and 44 collaborating partners, will assist up to 800 rice producers to address water quantity, water quality and wildlife habitat across 380,000 acres in Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas.
Remote sensors will be utilized to estimate bird population carrying capacity in shallow waters and a Field-to-Market Fieldprint Calculator will monitor results over time. The program offers several innovations to augment conservation implementation and gain broader producer participation.
More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. “With so many strong project proposals, the project selection process was extremely competitive. RCPP is a 5-year $1.2 billion USDA commitment; projects not selected in this first year may be eligible in subsequent years,” Salinas said.
For more information on Texas RCPP projects, visit NRCS Texas webpage or view the full list of projects.
The next announcement of program funding for fiscal year 2016 will be made later in the year. To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center.
Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service