NRCS Partners Receive $2 Million for Conservation Innovations

Aug 27, 2012, 14:33 ET from USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service

DAVIS, Calif., Aug. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that four conservation organizations will receive approximately $2 million to fund five Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) projects in California.  USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the grants that in California will include developing water quality trading markets in Sonoma County, improving pollinator habitat on farms and ranches and other conservation innovations. 

"These grants will help spur creativity and problem-solving on California's farms and ranches," said Jeff Burwell, acting state conservationist in California. "These projects will help in the development of unique and innovative solutions that will make conservation more efficient in the future."

New this year was a special emphasis on water quality trading markets to demonstrate how farmers and ranchers can help municipalities and other point sources overcome high pollution control costs. The Sotoyome Resource Conservation District (SRCD), based in Santa Rosa, Calif., will receive $570,000 to establish a credit trading market with the City of Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa has a wastewater treatment plant that sells treated wastewater to geothermal companies and other industries. Excess water is typically discharged into local water bodies. This credit trading market will allow Santa Rosa to pay SRCD to reduce on-farm nitrogen, by funding conservation practices, in exchange for nitrogen that is released through treated wastewater discharges.    

"The complex and mixed land uses of the Laguna de Santa Rosa present both challenges and opportunities for watershed management. For years, we have believed that our watershed would benefit greatly from bringing together cities and rural landowners to achieve good conservation practices such as manure management, sediment reduction, and other water quality practices. We see this project as a way to accomplish that goal and to help landowners obtain funding for voluntary water quality projects that can improve their land, ag operations and quality of life," said Kara Heckert, SRCD executive director.

Other CIG grants awarded are as follows:

  • Sustainable Conservation will receive $500,000 to demonstrate and quantify the effectiveness and economics of a reciprocating biofilter to remove lagoon water nitrogen on a commercial dairy in California's San Joaquin Valley.
  • The Regents of the University of California will receive $330,000 to help improve farming practices that benefit native bees.
  • UC Regents will also receive $120,000 to develop innovations for optimizing water and nitrogen use in California's tomato and cotton production as well as developing better tillage and legume cover crop systems for these crops.
  • The Xerces Society will receive $1 million, through a multi-state project, to develop new and innovation practices for pollinator conservation including expanding seed mix choices and assessing conservation effectiveness.

NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals. NRCS uses CIG to invest in innovative, on-the-ground conservation technologies and approaches with the goal of wide-scale adoption to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and environmental markets, among other natural resource issues.

NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America's private land owners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935. For more information on NRCS, visit

SOURCE USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service