U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced that all nine Michigan projects that submitted pre-proposals will move on to the next step to be considered for funding though the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Sen. Stabenow and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Bay City in May to launch the national initiative, created in the 2014 Farm Bill, which will protect our Great Lakes and invest in water, land, and wildlife conservation across the country. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program will competitively award funds on an annual basis to conservation projects designed by local partners (including businesses, non-profits, universities, and federal, state and local governments) specifically for their region.
Chairwoman Stabenow said: ‘Today’s announcement is an exciting next step for Michigan in the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Our Michigan projects bring together a strong group of businesses, non-profits, farmers, and conservation leaders already working hard to protect our water, land, and wildlife habitat for future generations. I will continue to support the great work being done across our state, which will have a lasting impact on the health of our Great Lakes and serve as a national model for what is possible through this historic partnership.’
Below are all nine Michigan projects advancing to the next step in the decision process (lead applicant in parentheses):
• Saginaw Bay Watershed Conservation Partnership to improve the water quality and wildlife habitat in the Saginaw Bay Watershed, which has been negatively impacted by phosphorus and nutrient sediment runoff. (The Nature Conservancy and Michigan Agri-Business Association) • Lake Michigan Fruitbelt Conservation Partnership to address water quality concerns for Michigan’s fruit and vegetable growers and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)• Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative to help farmers implement conservation practices to mitigate the flow of phosphorus, protecting soil health and water quality as well as wildlife habitat. (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development with the States of Ohio and Indiana)• Upper Great Lakes Healthy Forests Initiative to help private forestland owners implement best management practices to develop young forest acres. (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development)• Training Foresters to Enhance the Sustainable Management of Private Forest Land Partnership to train both private and public sector professional foresters to enhance private forest land management across Michigan. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)• St. Joseph Watershed Conservation Partnership to reduce excessive sediment and phosphorus loading, which has caused significant wetland and wildlife loss in the St. Joseph River watershed. (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development with the State of Indiana)• Northern Great Lakes Partnership for Improved Regional Conservation to address issues of erosion, water quality, and wildlife habitat on portions of the Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron watersheds. (Superior Watershed Partnership)• Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program to help farmers across the state conserve farmland and water and soil quality. (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) • Improving Forest Health for Wildlife Resources in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin to improve forest health and habitat management for the recovery of threatened and endangered species. (American Bird Conservancy)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to announce which of these projects will receive funding later this year.
USDA will provide $1.2 billion in funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program over the next five years and can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. $400 million in USDA funding is available in the first year. Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.
In addition, USDA has designated the Great Lakes as one of eight Critical Conservation Areas across the country, which will provide an opportunity for additional funding to address water quality issues. The other areas designated are the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Mississippi River Basin, Longleaf Pine Range, Columbia River Basin, California Bay Delta, Prairie Grasslands, and the Colorado River Basin.
The 2014 Farm Bill is our country’s biggest investment in private land conservation and has been called the most significant conservation legislation in generations. Voluntary partnerships between agricultural and conservation groups help farmers conserve soil health, protect water quality, and restore wildlife habitat in the Great Lakes region and across our state.
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