The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest nearly $75 million for 15 partner-led projects to address natural resource concerns on private lands. This year, projects funded by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s Alternative Funding Arrangements focus on climate-smart agriculture and forestry and other conservation priorities as well as improving access for historically underserved producers.
“The AFA component of RCPP is designed for partners who are thinking outside of the box to address some of our most pressing natural resource challenges,” said Lori Ziehr, State Conservationist in Ohio. “RCPP is a testament to the power of partnership. By combining local expertise, partner resources, federal assistance and a shared commitment to conservation we can advance critical priorities and innovative solutions that are key to addressing the climate crisis.”
As part of this year’s project selections, NRCS prioritized projects that supported smart strategies on working lands to help sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Several projects also had concrete plans for engaging producers from historically underserved communities.
Through RCPP, NRCS works with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to advance conservation priorities on the ground. AFA projects are partner-designed and partner-led RCPP projects that propose innovative uses of program funding to achieve conservation benefits. Through AFA projects, lead partners are responsible for contracting directly with eligible farmers, ranchers and other landowners to implement conservation activities on the ground.
Ohio award projects for 2021 include:
Pilot Watershed Project (Ohio): Ohio State University
The project will establish a pilot watershed in the larger Western Lake Erie Basin to test water quality management strategies with the goal of reducing phosphorus concentrations in local water bodies. The project will improve water quality monitoring infrastructure and incentivize participation through an “agglomeration bonus” that increases payments as more producers implement practices. Funding Amount: $6,839,113
Healing Mine-Scarred Landscapes via Reforestation (Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia): U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities
The project will reforest abandoned mine lands in the Appalachian region leveraging private capital and carbon market revenues. Partners will plant 2.5 million trees and the sequestered carbon estimated and sold as carbon offsets. Restored forest ecosystems will also benefit wildlife, including golden-winged warbler and American woodcock. Funding Amount: $2,178,500
For details on the awarded projects and to view an interactive map, visit the RCPP website. Farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners can participate in RCPP AFA through lead partners and can contact local service centers for more information.
First authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands. Partners are expected to offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding in an amount equal or greater to the USDA investment. RCPP projects range from a minimum of $250,000 to a maximum of $10 million.