Mississippi, the 49 other states and Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in federal funding for 115 high-impact conservation projects as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
In turn, these projects will leverage an estimated $400 million in partner contributions to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a press release Wednesday.
This year’s projects in Mississippi will accomplish a wide diversity of agricultural and natural resource goals from improving wetland habitats while protecting and enhancing water sources in the Mississippi Delta, serve as a high-quality feeding and resting habitats for migratory birds and maintaining a critical habitat for wetland wildlife and other at-risk species, the Ag Department said.
RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation.
In Mississippi, the Wetland Habitat Restoration for Wildlife and Water Resources project improves wetland habitats while protecting and enhancing water resources in the Mississippi Delta. Due to many land conversions for agricultural expansion in the area, valuable habitats were lost causing population declines of wildlife, degraded water quality, and decreased enhancement of ground water using the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer. To address resource concerns of inadequate fish and wildlife habitat and insufficient water and degraded water quality, the Agricultural Conservation Enhancement Program (ACEP) is proposed for this project. The lead partner is Delta Wildlife.
The Migratory Bird Habitat Creation project in the Lower Mississippi River Valley will focus on the natural resource concerns of inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife and insufficient water. This project will create wetland habitats in conjunction with outreach and education efforts to increase landowner awareness of the benefits of wetlands and winter water, primarily on working agricultural lands and Wetland Reserve Easements.
High-quality feeding and resting habitats will be provided to migratory birds headed south towards the Gulf of Mexico through the utilization of various conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The partner in this project is the Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The Rice Stewardship Partnership RCPP project will act to conserve water quantity, improve water quality, and create and maintain critical habitat for wetland wildlife and other at-risk species with growers of this critical food staple. These partners will work with producers in the planning, design, and installation of conservation practices on working lands. Rice is the only crop that is 100 percent irrigated. Water quantity, water quality, and wetland wildlife (focusing on at-risk species) are the primary resource concerns addressed by the Partnership. This is a national RCPP project that includes Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. The lead partner on this project is Ducks Unlimited.
The RCCP is an “entirely new approach to conservation efforts,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These partnerships empower communities to set priorities and lead the way on conservation efforts important for their region. They also encourage private sector investment so we can make an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own.
“We’re giving private companies, local communities, and other non-government partners a way to invest in a new era in conservation that ultimately benefits us all. These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, outdoor recreation, and other industries.”