This week, USDA and its partners launched a new conservation initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program that goes beyond traditional government support for conservation and allows businesses and other for-profit partners to invest in regional conservation projects. RCPP takes conservation off the farm and out of the forest and moves it into the board room.
The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners and specifically tailored to local needs. 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.
USDA will invest $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program, including $400 million this first year. With partners investing alongside us, we hope to leverage an additional $1.2 billion for a total of $2.4 billion invested in conservation projects that improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.
In addition to supporting local conservation goals, conservation investments brought by RCPP will also propel growth in communities. Conservation work involves building terraces in fields, restoring wetlands, which means new local jobs. A 2013 study commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation estimates that last year, conservation activities supported more than 660,000 jobs across the country. The resulting cleaner water and enhanced wildlife habitat also expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in local communities. The outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs, $80 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and $646 billion in spending each year.
We can’t achieve these goals without partners of all kinds at the table. Establishing new public-private partnerships through RCPP allows USDA to have an impact that's well beyond what we could accomplish on our own. Together, we will forge a new era of conservation partnership that will both keep our land resilient and water clean and promote tremendous economic growth in our communities. For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.
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I had the opportunity to work on a previous USDA CIG and with agronomists to begin to understand how the private sector can better engage with natural resource management.