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Robert Bonnie

Investing in Our Public Lands: The President's Proposal to Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Over 50 years ago, a visionary Congress established an innovative program to bring communities together to invest in open spaces and recreational opportunities that are an essential part of our nation’s heritage and economy. Since then, the highly successful Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped to protect working forests and ranches, preserve our public lands -- parks, refuges,  forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife habitats -- and provide access to outdoor recreation across the nation for use and enjoyment by all Americans.

President Obama is committed to passing on America’s public lands and waters to future generations in better shape than we found them. That’s why he is proposing full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and pursuing permanent authorization in annual mandatory funding for the Fund’s programs beginning in 2018.

USDA Celebrates a Record of Conservation Successes

Throughout the last seven years, the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service have made great strides in conserving private working lands and our public lands for future generations. We have pioneered approaches to conservation that use incentives and partnerships to work with landowners across property boundaries and conserve watersheds, wildlife and large landscapes.  What’s more, USDA is demonstrating that conserving our natural resources creates economic opportunities for rural communities across the country.

Today, we are launching the second chapter of USDA Results, a progressive year-long storytelling effort of the Obama Administration’s work on behalf of those living, working and raising families in rural America.  This month’s chapter tells the story of how we are working to conserve our natural resources. Throughout February, we will be announcing new projects and highlighting the work we have done over the last seven years.

On the Map: The Land, Water and Conservation Fund

There is a Federal program that you may not have heard of, but it is responsible for conserving millions of acres of recreational and conservation lands for Americans to enjoy, and it helps fund local parks, provide access to rivers and trails, and preserve wildlife habitat in every state in the Union.  This program is the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and each year, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture request funding from Congress to support grants to states and high priority federal recreational and conservation investments. Locating and learning about these special places is now easier than ever through a new interactive map. The map enables everyone to explore the 173 public projects proposed for investment in 43 states, including important waterfowl nesting habitat in the Prairie Potholes, battlefields and historic sites from Pennsylvania to Washington, scenic vistas in iconic locations like Maine’s Acadia National Park, and recreation sites in national monuments in California and Arizona.

Land and Water Conservation funds secure access for the American public to their Federal lands.  For 50 years, the law has been one of the most successful programs for recreation and conservation in our history. LWCF has provided funding to local communities that supported the construction of more than 40,000 city parks, hiking and biking trails, and boat ramps, and access to thousands of acres of fishing and hunting and  important wildlife habitat.

USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Helps Rice Growers Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Voluntarily Participate in California's Carbon Market

Imagine a rice farmer in Arkansas altering his water management techniques to deliver water more efficiently and use fewer days of flooding, allowing for more precise water and nutrient management while maintaining consistent yields. After a decision by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), in addition to improving water quality and reducing water use and nutrient input costs, that Arkansas farmer now has the option of selling carbon credits to large regulated emitters in California.   

In 2012, California put in place a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most aggressive climate change programs in the world. Last week’s groundbreaking vote by CARB adopted the first crop-based agricultural offset protocol, designed to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from rice production. Methane and nitrous oxide are potent greenhouse gases emitted through the cultivation and fertilization of rice fields.

National Network on Water Quality Trading Document Aims to Help New Program Development

USDA is committed to protecting streams, rivers and lakes through agricultural conservation, and has a long history of working with partners to implement the practices and policies needed to meet water quality goals. One of these policies, water quality trading, can help communities develop innovative, practical solutions for improving water quality, while generating environmental benefits at lower cost and increasing investment in rural America. At least twelve states have established one or more water quality trading programs—but creating the trading rules, working with stakeholders, and running a trading program can be difficult.

In 2013, The National Network on Water Quality Trading began as a dialogue between 18 organizations to tackle the challenges involved with establishing water quality markets. The Network represents a variety of perspectives, including farmers, utilities, environmental groups, regulatory agencies, and others interested in water quality trading. USDA participated in the process as a technical advisor.

25 Years Later, Forest Conservation Programs Still Help Keep Our Working Forests Thriving And Working

Patrick Leahy is Vermont’s senior U.S. senator and led in authoring forest conservation programs that he first included in the 1990 Farm Bill, when he chaired the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  Robert Bonnie is USDA’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment.  This week they headed a commemoration on Capitol Hill of this year’s 25th anniversary of the Forest Legacy Program and other initiatives that help states and communities conserve forest land.  Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications

Twenty-five years ago, the Senate’s 1990 Leahy-Lugar Farm Bill authorized the creation of three pivotal forestry programs that today are a resounding success.  The Forest Legacy, Forest Stewardship and Urban and Cooperative Forestry Programs help private and state forest landowners keep their forests healthy.  That in turn supports tens of thousands of jobs, benefiting rural and urban communities across the nation.  This week we joined in a celebration in the Capitol Hill Visitors Center marking this milestone.

Bi-State Sage-Grouse Success Shows Importance of Voluntary Conservation Partnerships

We can achieve more when we voluntarily work together, and the decision today not to list the Bi-State sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act proves the power of partnerships. In this case, collectively, we were able to proactively conserve and restore habitat for this geographically distinct sage-grouse.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service works with conservation partners and ranchers in Nevada and California to take steps to benefit sage-grouse habitat while also helping ranchers improve their ranching operations. Meanwhile, this work helps connect public lands like national forests, where U.S. Forest Service is working to restore habitat, too.

Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Sees the Power of Partnership in Urban Flood Control

The saying, “When it rains, it pours,” can often apply to the heavy rain events in Omaha, Neb. where flooding is a concern. Due to the large amount of hard surfaces – roofs, parking lots, streets, etc. – a lot of the rainfall doesn’t soak into the ground. This generates runoff, which can quickly lead to flooding.

On a recent tour, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie was able to see firsthand how the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) flood control projects are helping to protect lives and property in Omaha.

New Farm Bill Program to Help Protect Longleaf's Legacy for Future Generations

As a kid, I spent Christmas vacations with my family and my grandfather in the longleaf pine forests of South Carolina.  While my grandfather and father (and later me) were quail hunters, you don’t have to be a sportsman or a sportswoman to appreciate longleaf pine.  Longleaf forests are home to countless wildlife species, a diversity of plants, and provide valuable wood products, such as heart-pine floors that are cherished across the South.  Longleaf forests once covered some 90 million acres along the Southeast coastal plain, but over the past two centuries, development, conversion, ill-planned timbering, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf’s range to a mere sliver of its former extent.

USDA and our many conservation partners are working to restore longleaf forests, and we’ve seen significant progress in the recent years. Now, a new Farm Bill program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, is providing additional support to the effort.

Principles, Requirements and Guidelines - An Important Update that will benefit USDA Clients

When you take a drink of water in this country, chances are pretty good that it came from a reservoir or river that is managed, or that has been treated in a plant funded with support from the Federal government, or whose headwaters are on public land managed by the United States Forest Service or Department of Interior.  Every dollar the federal government spends supporting water quality and quantity impacts millions of Americans.  Interagency guidelines governing how investments, programs, and policies that affect water resources are evaluated at the Federal level have been updated for the first time since 1983, and published by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Given the importance of water to USDA programs and our customers, we understand that it makes sense to have the most complete and forward-thinking information available to inform our investment and implementation decisions.  That enhances our ability to develop programs and projects that conserve water resources while ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent.  USDA is confident that these new guidelines can enhance our decision-making without adversely affecting how we implement our many conservation programs.