USDA announces 2016 conservation partnership projects

Texas is the recipient of three of the 84 conservation projects that are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2016 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a partner-driven, locally led approach to conservation.

The Fort Hood Private Lands Conservation Initiative is a partnership between the Compatible Lands Foundation and the U.S. Army to preserve 22,000 acres of grazing lands adjacent to Fort Hood Army Base in Coryell County, Texas, through the acquisition of permanent conservation easements. Grazing lands will be preserved, wildlife habitat for such species as the golden-cheeked warbler and monarch butterfly will be protected, and water quality and quantity in the Trinity Aquifer will be protected by the conservation of important recharge lands. Additionally, military training occurring at Fort Hood will not be disrupted from incompatible land uses on adjacent properties.

The Limited Applied Irrigation Assistance Program, led by the High Plains Underground Water District, will address inefficient use of irrigation and moisture management concerns within the Ogallala Aquifer. The program will encourage agricultural water users to leave water in the ground through adoption of on-farm water conservation strategies, improved irrigation efficiency or conversion to non-irrigated production. The program will build on existing programs to address water conservation needs in the region and establish an economic incentive for producers to participate.

The Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies is a multi-state partnership that will restore, manage and conserve wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies on agricultural and tribal lands using conservation planning and assessment; habitat improvement and best management practices; building an adequate seed supply for milkweed and nectar plants; and, enhancing organizational coordination and capacity.

USDA and its partners will direct up to $720 million toward the 84 projects that will help communities improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.

Water quality and drought are dominant themes in this year’s RCPP project list with 45 of the 84 projects focusing on water resource concerns. See the full list of 2016 projects.

In 2015, the Texas Water Resources Institute was selected to lead a RCPP project, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Improvement Initiative, which addresses water quantity and water quality concerns in the Valley. It is also a is a collaborator on the Texas Gulf Coast Stream and Wetland Initiative, which focuses on restoring and protecting headwater stream and wetland systems within a 54-county area in the Texas Gulf Coast region.

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program puts local partners in the driver’s seat to accomplish environmental goals that are most meaningful to that community. Joining together public and private resources also harnesses innovation that neither sector could implement alone,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA news release announcing the projects.

Read the complete USDA news release

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