COLCHESTER, Vt. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it is investing $330 million nationwide 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 Vermont. Projects are awarded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnerships working at their best,” said Vicky Drew, NRCS State Conservationist in Vermont. “These new projects will harness the power of partnerships to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”
The American Farmland Trust was awarded $7.4 million for The Regenerative Agriculture for Western New England project, which aims to use technical and financial assistance to improve soil health, water quality, and pollinator habitat on 550 livestock farms, complete conservation planning on 25,000 acres of cropland and pasture, and ensure long-term regenerative practice adoption on 15,000 acres. This multi-state project will be managed by Massachusetts NRCS and will provide resources and support to livestock farmers in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Project partners estimate that landowner implementation activities will prevent surface water runoff of 2,500 tons of sediment, 12 tons of nitrogen, and four tons of phosphorus, while mitigating about 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).
Additional partners include the University of Connecticut Department of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Vermont Extension, Xerces Society, New England Dairy, Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts, and Pete and Gerry’s Organics.
In addition, the State Natural Resources Conservation Council (NRCC) was awarded a $1.5 million RCPP award to support its Vermont Stream Restoration and Protection Program. Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts will deliver environmental and habitat benefits including improved aquatic organism passage and water quality protection measures through increased project implementation, including stream restoration, culvert replacement, and agricultural erosion and runoff prevention projects. The program will deliver technical and financial assistance to landowners across four prioritized river basins: the Winooski, Otter Creek, and Lamoille River Basins, as well as the Crosby Brook Watershed. The funding will focus on reviews of watershed planning documentation, conservation technical assistance, project implementation, and partner coordination to improve aquatic organism passage, restore stream and streamside habitats, and protect water quality. These projects will assist farmers in complying with the state’s Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) and reduce sediment and nutrient loading to Vermont’s surface waters when implemented on agricultural lands. The watershed planning efforts used to identify projects will ensure that investments and conservation impacts are optimized across multiple natural resource sectors. Funding for these efforts will extend through 2026.
Vermont’s Conservation Districts will also partner with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD), and NRCC. The benefits of stream restoration have been identified by all partners as critical to restoring stream equilibrium, protecting Vermont’s fish and wildlife populations, and improving flood resiliency. With more than 20 years of collaboration, the partners’ input, assessment, and planning will ensure the implementation of projects with the highest environmental and economic benefits.
Jill Arace, Executive Director of VACD and Associate Member of NRCC, says: “This is an exciting opportunity that will enable Vermont’s Conservation Districts to build upon their Trees for Streams and Soil Health programs to support farmers’ efforts to enhance streamside habitats and protect water quality.”
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.
See the interactive map of all awarded RCPP projects nationwide here.
There are currently 336 active RCPP projects that have engaged more than 2,000 partners. For more information, visit the RCPP website.
–USDA NRCS Vermont
For more articles out of New England, click here.