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News Release
  Release No. 0134.06
Contact:
Ed Loyd (202) 720-4623
Jim Brownlee (202) 720-4623

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  JOHANNS OBSERVES EARTH DAY IN COLORADO WITH CONSERVATION AGREEMENTS
 

WIGGINS, Colo., April 21, 2006 – Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns celebrated Earth Day by signing two Colorado Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) partnerships totaling $91.6 million that will conserve water and improve wildlife habitat.

"Through these CREP agreements covering 65,000 acres in eastern Colorado, farmers and ranchers will conserve water use while enhancing habitat for declining fish species and other wildlife," said Johanns. "I'm proud to celebrate Earth Day by expanding our partnerships with farmers and ranchers who are among America's very best stewards of the land."

Johanns signed the agreements during an Earth Day celebration near Wiggins with Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Russell George, Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament and Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave. Following the signing ceremony, Johanns was also joined by FFA volunteers in planting hackberry and juniper trees.

Colorado Republican River CREP

The 35,000-acre Colorado Republican River CREP will conserve agricultural irrigation water use in the Republican River basin by 5 percent on the eligible 30,000-acres.

The planting of native grass and other vegetative covers throughout the Republican River CREP are projected to reduce soil erosion by 374,000 tons and reduce the application of agricultural chemicals by 2,900 tons. When fully implemented, the CREP will restore 30 miles of riparian habitat and 500 wetland acres that will improve habitat for targeted fish species, including the stonecat, suckermouth minnow, brassy minnow and plains minnow.

USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) estimates the Republican River CREP's total cost over a 15-year period to be $66.3 million. USDA is contributing $52.8 million and Colorado is funding $13.5 million, including $11.7 million through the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) Water Activity Enterprise.

Colorado High Plains CREP

The Colorado High Plains CREP will increase populations of ring-necked pheasants and other ground-nesting birds by planting habitat, food plots and vegetative covers on the eligible 30,000 acres. On the enrolled acres, the CREP will boost public access and recreational opportunities, such as hunting and bird watching. The High Plains CREP will reduce soil erosion by 160,000 tons each year, while reducing the application of chemicals by 750 tons over a 15-year period. This will improve water quality for eastern Colorado. The High Plains CREP will cost $25.3 million over 15 years, with USDA paying $19.9 million and Colorado funding $5.4 million

For both CREPs, landowners may offer eligible cropland in all or portions of the eastern Colorado counties of Kit Carson, Logan, Phillips, Sedgwick and Yuma. Sign-up for both CREPs begins June 12, 2006, at local FSA offices and continues until enrollment goals are met, or through Dec. 31, 2007, whichever comes first. Enrolled land will remain under contract for 14 to 15 years, as specified in the contract.

USDA Announces Nearly $116 Million in Community Water/Wastewater Infrastructure Loans and Grants in Celebration of Earth Day

Johanns also highlighted $115.1 million in investments to 28 states by the Bush Administration today for rural water and waste disposal loans and grants to assist over 50 rural communities with environmentally sound waste disposal and safe drinking water systems.

Funding for these projects is comprised of $55.1 million in loans and $59.9 million in grants. A part of the total is $3.5 million in Solid Waste Management Grants and $17.2 million in Technical Assistance and Training Grants. The technical assistance and training grants go to nonprofit organizations to provide technical assistance and training on a wide range of issues relating to the delivery of water and waste disposal services.

The Solid Waste Management Grants are made to public and private nonprofit organizations for providing technical assistance and training to associations to reduce or eliminate pollution of water resources and improve planning and management of solid waste facilities. Small communities are facing greater challenges today in the management of solid waste problems. A complete list of the selected loan and grant recipients and projects can be found at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rd/newsroom/news.htm.

Creating Healthy Forests And Protecting Communities From Catastrophic Wildfire

The President's Healthy Forests Initiative is restoring and rehabilitating fire-adapted ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. From 2001-2005, federal land management agencies treated a total of 15 million acres to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires. By the end of FY 2006, that total will approach 20 million acres. Additional information on the Healthy Forest Initiative is available at: www.healthforest.gov.

Nation's Wetlands Initiative Goal in Sight

Significant progress has been made toward President Bush's pledge to restore, improve and protect 3 million acres of our nation's wetlands in five years. Since this goal was set, over 1.7 million acres of wetlands have been restored, created, protected or improved.

USDA is making significant contributions to the President's Wetlands Initiative. By the end of Fiscal Year 2006, USDA will have contributed nearly 400,000 acres of restored, created, protected or improved wetlands through voluntary conservation programs on private lands. USDA funding contributing to this accomplishment totals nearly $270 million dollars.

Additional information about these programs and other key USDA accomplishments is featured on an Earth Day Backgrounder at www.usda.gov.