The Department of Agriculture (DoA) has awarded more than $1.1 billion to 81 projects nationwide that advance conservation efforts on agricultural land and forests.
The funding is administered through the department’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which uses public-private partnerships (P3s) to expand the reach of conservation efforts and climate-smart agriculture
The initial $1.1 billion allocation for 2023 came from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Farm Bill and is more than double last year’s allocation, the DoA said. The increased amount will help project partners implement conservation activities before funds expire in FY 2031.
Projects that received 2023 funds include 77 that focus on climate, 22 that zero in on water quantity and conservation, 16 that help protect and restore wildlife corridors and 10 that focus on urban agriculture. Projects include:
- $25 million to a project in which Alabama and Georgia are teaming up with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to advance climate-resistant longleaf pine restoration and conservation. The goal is to engage 5,000 private landowners to restore, enhance and conserve 150,000 acres of longleaf pine on private land in Alabama and Georgia over five years.
- $25 million for a P3 between Restore the Earth Foundation and four partners that include the state of Arkansas that will help fund a $55 million project to restore subpar cropland to its original forested condition.
- $22.8 million to the Gila River Indian Community and the State of Arizona that, when combined with $80 million of contributions from partners, to replace open-channel canals with at least 8.5 miles of pipeline and upgrade 7.61 miles of existing earthen ditches. The goal is to reduce water loss within the system. This investment will also protect soil productivity while conserving scare water resources in a time of extraordinary drought and aridification in the Southwest.
Additionally, the DoA is making significant changes to the RCPP that it said will make it work better for producers and partners. Changes will include streamlining the agreement process, shifting program management to state conservationists and developing tools to ensure partners get paid faster.
Once improvements have been implemented, the estimated negotiation time of RCPP agreements with U.S.-held easement activities will be reduced from 15 months to three months, and from 19 months to three months with entity-held easement activities, the DOA said.