DAVIS, Calif., Jan. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California announces six new partnership-driven conservation projects, funded under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), newly created in the 2014 Farm Bill. Nationwide, RCPP is providing federal financial and technical resources for more than 100 approved projects, totaling $372 million.
"We are excited and energized by the new opportunities made possible with a strong mix of partners involved in the RCPP projects that will take place here in California," said NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. "It is very powerful to be able to engage in partnerships that embrace both agricultural and environmental interests and perspectives—and find collaborative ways of making progress on critical issues such as avian habitat, climate change, groundwater protection and more."
Each project has its own set of conservation benefits, specific goals and management practices. Four of the selected projects benefit agricultural lands geographically located within California, and two additional projects provide conservation benefits on a multi-state level. The four projects that are totally within California borders will receive approximately $12 million with partners providing matching resources to implement the work. The work will tap into resources from both the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
California-Specific Project Overviews:
- Enhancement of Tricolored Blackbird Habitat on Agricultural Land. Lead partner: Audubon California with participation from Western United Dairymen. Project will address factors that challenge dairy farmers and threaten Tricolored Blackbird populations, with the goal of finding a sustainable solution for management of colonies on farms and saving the species from extinction. In addition to using working lands programs and wetland easements to protect and increase habitat, an educational campaign will help increase awareness of farmers' role in saving the species.
- Expansion of Waterbird Habitat Project in the Central Valley. Lead partner: California Rice Commission. Project will increase technical and financial assistance to California's rice growers to increase wildlife features on approximately 165,000 acres of rice fields. A special component will address the specific needs of upland-nesting bird species on 12,000 acres.
- The Pajaro Valley Community Water Dialogue. Lead partner: Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County. Project will provide assistance to local growers to implement conservation practices that reduce groundwater pumping, increase aquifer recharge, protect surface water by reducing nitrate leaching into the groundwater.
- Bay Area Climate Change Practices on Agricultural Lands. Lead partner: Marin Agricultural Land Trust. Project will help farmers accelerate conservation planning and implement conservation measures that combat climate change. Practices will take place on lands protected by long-term agricultural easements. Partners and landowners will monitor soil quality, water quality, and in-stream habitat on these lands.
Multi-State Project Overviews:
- The Klamath-Rogue Oak Woodland Conservation Project. Lead partner: Lomakatsi Restoration Project. Work will will target 3,200 high-priority acres, from California to Oregon, recently identified in a Conservation Implementation Strategy, to preserve, enhance, and restore the structural diversity, ecological function, and overall health and persistence of oak habitats and their watersheds.
- The Rice Stewardship Partnership. Lead partner: Ducks Unlimited. Will assist nearly 800 rice producers to address water quantity, water quality, and wildlife habitat across 380,000 acres in six states including California. Using remote sensing to estimate bird population carrying capacity in shallow waters and the Field-to-Market Fieldprint Calculator to monitor results over time, the partners offer several innovations to augment conservation implementation and gain broader producer participation.
It could be several weeks before full partner agreements for California RCPP projects will be finalized. Partners will be redefining the scope and actions of their projects based on the final allotments made available. Due to the intense competition for RCPP funds, all award amounts were reduced from original requests. In some cases, renegotiations of contribution agreements may also be necessary. Final agreements with partners will be completed by April 1.
Due to the intense competition, all awards were reduced from their original requests. NRCS staff will continue working on the final contribution agreements with partners and anticipate having them finalized by April 1.
RCPP selected competitive conservation projects, designed by local partners specifically for their state or region. Eligible partners included 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.
SOURCE USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service