COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is awarding $197 million for 41 locally-led conservation projects, including a project submitted by the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP is a partner-driven program that leverages partner resources to advance innovative projects that address climate change, enhance water quality, and address other critical challenges on agricultural land.
“Our partners are experts in their fields and understand the challenges in their own backyards,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Through RCPP we can tap into that knowledge, in partnership with producers and USDA, to come up with lasting solutions to the challenges that farmers, ranchers, and landowners face. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of public-private partnership at its best, made possible through these RCPP investments.”
The projects funded are awarded under two different RCPP funding opportunities: RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). RCPP Classic projects are implemented using NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners and communities, in collaboration with project partners. Through RCPP AFA, partners have more flexibility in working directly with agricultural producers to support the development of new conservation structures and approaches that would not otherwise be available under RCPP Classic.
NRI and the Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscape RCPP
Of the projects funded, NRI’s work with Joint Base San Antonio—Camp Bullis, which provides critical medical training facilities for all branches of the Armed Forces, will support the numerous challenges to its mission including urban encroachment, increased droughts, floods, and wildfire risk, decreases in water quality and quantity, decreases in habitat for critical species, and ultimately an increased vulnerability to climate change. With the $8.5 million awarded, NRI and a unique coalition of miltary, conservation and agricultural organizations plan to use a combination of land management activities and conservation easements to address these resource concerns across an almost million-acre project area. Project funding will be targeted to lands with maximal conservation value to meet the goals and objectives of the Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscape.
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. Since its inception, RCPP has made 589 awards involving over 3,000 partner organizations. Currently, there are 401 active projects, with at least one active project in every state and area. Successful RCPP projects provide innovative conservation solutions, leverage partner contributions and offer impactful and measurable outcomes.
RCPP is part of NRCS’ broader effort to engage partners. For example, NRCS recently announced it will invest $35 million this year through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Through CIG, grantees work to address our nation’s water quality, water quantity, air quality, soil health and wildlife habitat challenges, all while supporting agricultural production.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
–Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute