Increased Partnerships, Targeted Water Quality Efforts Focus of Showcase Watershed
HERSHEY, Pa., June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced Conewago Creek as Pennsylvania's Chesapeake Bay Showcase Watershed during an event at the Eby-Patterson Farm in Hershey. Conewago Creek is joined by Upper Chester River in Maryland and Smith Creek in Virginia as one of three showcase watersheds to demonstrate what can be achieved by combining strong partnerships, sound science and funding to solve natural resource problems.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan was joined by a number of federal, state and local conservation partners to support this watershed effort, including Congressman Tim Holden; Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding; President of the Tri-County Conewago Creek Watershed Association, Matt Royer; and Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Deanna Archuleta.
"Agriculture remains a key part of the solution to the Chesapeake Bay restoration," Merrigan said as she made the announcement. "The showcase watersheds strengthen USDA's commitment to funding priority conservation practices in places that will do the most good for water quality in the Bay and its tributaries."
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has committed additional funding and staff for the three showcase watersheds to help demonstrate water quality improvements through expanded producer outreach efforts, use of innovative conservation practices and intensive conservation planning, implementation and monitoring.
"The Natural Resources Conservation Service is committed to working with our partners and local landowners to make a difference in this watershed," said NRCS State Conservationist Denise Coleman.
The goal of USDA and its partners is to reach out to 100 percent of the rural landowners in these model watersheds to gauge their current level of conservation treatment and explain additional technical and financial assistance opportunities available through various conservation programs.
Each showcase watershed also is supported by a diverse group of non-governmental partners, including local watershed groups and non-profits that are committing substantial resources to the coordinated effort. NRCS has entered into agreements with the three local Conservation Districts in Dauphin, Lebanon, and Lancaster counties to work together on surveying conservation needs and promoting available conservation programs to help address those needs. Also, NRCS is sponsoring a National Fish and Wildlife (NFWF) grant, along with non-government organizations, received by Penn State University that integrates the different practices and approaches used by each partner to help watershed residents better understand the value of their local ecosystems and access opportunities to help them make conservation decisions.
The three showcase watersheds are one component of USDA's strategy to improve natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. USDA is responsible for implementing new conservation practices on four million acres of agricultural land through 2025. Farmers and forest owners throughout the watershed will have access to resources to prevent soil erosion and keep nitrogen and phosphorus out of the bay's streams, creeks and rivers.
USDA's work in the Chesapeake Bay is funded, in large part, by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), one of the largest single federal investments in the clean-up effort.
CBWI, established in the 2008 Farm Bill, may provide up to $188 million from 2009 – 2012 to support restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
For more information about NRCS Chesapeake Bay activities, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/chesapeakebay.html.
NRCS is celebrating 75 years helping people help the land in 2010. Since 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.
SOURCE USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service