USDA Announces $235 Million Available for Innovative New Conservation Partnerships


USDA Announces $235 Million Available for Innovative New Conservation Partnerships

Albuquerque Two weeks ago the Director of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service travelled to Hernandez for the formal roll out of a series of grant awards (See earlier article HERE). Nine million dollars out of a total $394 million in awards in the first round of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) applications were designated for New Mexico projects, including local acequias in the northern New Mexico area.

Now, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers $235 million in assistance for the second round of projects. The deadline for receiving applications is June 19, 2015.

RCPP, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower to projects to maximize their impact. This will be the second round of projects funded through RCPP.

The first round of projects approved included four in New Mexico:

New Mexico Restoration Initiative for Rangeland, Forestland, and Wildlife on Ranches with Federal Lands

Lead partner: New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts

In response to drought conditions and extreme wildfires impacting more than 1.5 million acres from 2009 to 2013, New Mexico has developed a Restore New Mexico plan that includes treating brush- invaded range lands and dense forest land, soil erosion, and wildlife habitat degradation. As part of this effort, more ranchers in 15 conservation districts collaborated on Coordinated Resource Management Plans, which will be the basis for NRCS, the Bureau of Land Management, and private industry to continue to restore affected areas on both private and Federal land.

Canadian River Watershed Restoration Project (CRWRP)

Lead Partner: Canadian River Riparian Restoration Project

Working across private, federal, and state lands, the partners in this area of New Mexico will focus on treating invasive plant species while maintaining energy production, maintaining cultural traditions, and supporting operation sustainability. A coordinated resource management plan (CRMP) will be developed collaboratively by the rancher, Federal, and state land management agencies to ensure that all areas of the watershed will be able to benefit from treatment of brush invasion, soil erosion, and wildlife habitat degradation. Support from the Jornada Rangeland Research Programs will ensure that the most up-to-date and scientifically sound conservation methods will be used.

New Mexico Acequia Revitalization on Historic Irrigated Lands (NMAR)

Lead partner: New Mexico Acequia Association, Interstate Stream Commission, New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts

The objective of the proposal is to facilitate and promote surface water conservation, increase irrigation system efficiencies/effectiveness and improve water quality on agricultural lands and for downstream purposes in primarily highly minority/underserved communities. The New Mexico Acequia Revitalization Initiative will use Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program contracts with farmers and ranchers operating irrigated lands served by an acequia system. Water quantity and quality will be improved by restoring historic acequias on agricultural lands supporting local families and communities.

North Central New Mexico Watershed Restoration Project

Lead partner: Claunch-Pinto Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)

Poor historic management of forest and riparian watersheds and climate change are creating a dire situation. Wildlife, fish, acequias, rural economies, tourism and outdoor recreation are all at risk from the associated impacts of watershed wildfires. Without a large scale watershed solution wildfire will threaten more communities within the Wildland Urban Interface. Claunch-Pinto SWCD and its partners have identified forest restoration treatments on private, public, state and tribal lands that are located within the upland ponderosa pine, pinon, and juniper watersheds and in the lower elevation riparian ones.

“We encourage all of our partners in conservation to apply for this program,” said State Conservationist for NRCS in New Mexico, J. Xavier Montoya. “By working together and leveraging our resources we are able to generate a greater impact on the lands we are all working to conserve.” Deadline for receiving applications is June 19, 2015.

For more information on applying, visit the RCPP Website. Here is how to find your local NRCS Service Center.