COLUMBIA, S.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is investing $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability, including two projects in South Carolina. Projects are awarded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
“Public-private partnerships are an invaluable tool to advance our mutual goals of high production and the conservation and preservation of resources,” said Ann English, NRCS South Carolina State Conservationist. “The Regional Conservation Partnership Programs go a long way towards achieving these goals.”
The Pee Dee Coalition (PDC) for Water Improvement project will use targeted conservation easements to improve water quality, reduce flood risk, enhance habitat, and help ensure clean affordable drinking water for generations to come. The lead partner will leverage contributions from seven partners and GIS analysis to prioritize lands that best address project goals. The USDA awarded the PDC a $1.5M million for improvements in the Longleaf Pine Range, a designated Critical Conservation Area.
The USDA awarded $962,649 to the Pee Dee Watershed Land Conservation project. Using this grant, the Pee Dee Land Trust will protect priority farm and forest land throughout the Pee Dee Watershed in South Carolina by engaging with private landowners to place conservation easements on land that will contribute to water quality protection along critical waterways. The flexibility of RCPP easements allows project partners to include forest lands/riparian buffers and wetlands in the project. The project partners estimate being able to protect 2,500 – 3,000 acres of land within the Pee Dee Watershed within the project period.
Through RCPP, conservation partners work in collaboration with NRCS to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners throughout the nation to implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats and increase climate resilience.
RCPP partners offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding. These projects offer impactful and measurable outcomes. Throughout its history, 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. The Department anticipates the investments made today will generate at least $440 million in additional conservation funds by communities and other partners.
There are currently 336 active RCPP projects that have engaged more than 2,000 partners.
The 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 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. RCPP projects are key to the USDA achieving its mission.
–Michael Mascari, USDA NRCS