The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $23.2 million into three locally driven partnerships in the Western Lake Erie Basin, which encompasses portions of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. This includes a $7.8 million investment in the Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Collaboration project led by Indiana’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
These projects are funded, in part, through the NRCS’ Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and will address climate change, improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.
Through RCPP, conservation partners work in collaboration with the NRCS to help farmers and private forest landowners to implement conservation systems that improve natural resource concerns on their land.
“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program shows public-private partnerships working at their best,” said Jerry Raynor, NRCS state conservationist in Indiana. “These new projects will harness the power of partnerships to bring about science-based solutions to improve the health and resiliency of the Western Lake Erie Water Basin, enhancing water quality and soil productivity in the region.”
The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Collaboration is a partnership driven by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), which joins forces with more than 30 partners to help participating farmers improve soil health, reduce phosphorus and sediment loading and prevent harmful algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie basin by using a suite of conservation practices, working towards a 40% reduction of dissolved phosphorus. The partnership will use sophisticated targeting tools, like the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), to work with producers and landowners operating near the Maumee headwaters, an area identified as a source of high levels of excess phosphorus, to further education, conservation, restoration and sustainable use of soil, water and wildlife on a watershed scale.
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. USDA anticipates the investments made Tuesday will generate at least $440 million in additional conservation funds by communities and other partners.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, including those through RCPP, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, producers and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including state, local and Tribal governments.
Nationally, the NRCS is investing $330 million in 85 locally driven partnerships to work with farmers, landowners and local communities to combat climate change.
There are currently 336 active RCPP projects that have engaged more than 2,000 partners. See the interactive map of awarded RCPP projects here.
To learn more about RCPP in Indiana, visit: Regional Conservation Partnership Program | NRCS Indiana (usda.gov).
For more information about NRCS and other technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or contact your district conservationist https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app.