USDA, NFWF partner on southern solutions
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"The health of the Gulf ecosystem will be decided by how well we treat the private lands that make up most of this region," Secretary Vilsack said. "This new partnership with NFWF leverages significant funding for restoration in these Gulf States. In addition to our many Farm Bill conservation programs, partnering with NFWF and private landowners will enable us to continue to make progress in this region and achieve our goals for a healthy Gulf ecosystem."" The new partnership will significantly expand conservation efforts with private landowners and operators who might not otherwise be eligible to participate in existing recovery programs. The partnership will begin with a $20 million investment from NFWF, matched by a $20 million investment from NRCS. Additional commitments of up to $30 million from each partner are possible over the next four years.
NFWF, NRCS and other partners will focus on working on private lands to implement conservation projects that will enhance the existing recovery efforts in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas.
Potential projects include:
- Wetlands conservation
- Stream and riparian buffer restoration
- Farm and ranch land protection, including practices that go along with protection, such as improving soil health, implementing no-till farming and enhancing wildlife habitat
Information on the projects will be available through NRCS offices in the five Gulf states.
Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller stress the project is about keeping private working lands in production. They say the partnership will also help boost local economies, offering opportunities for local contractors, design teams, local suppliers. “It's a job and income creating opportunity as well,” Secretary Vilsack said.
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In early 2013, a U.S. District Court approved two plea agreements resolving certain criminal cases against BP and Transocean which arose from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The agreements direct a total of $2.544 billion to NFWF to fund projects benefiting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast that were impacted by the spill.
This agreement builds on investments that NFWF and NRCS are making in the region. NRCS works side-by-side with farmers, ranchers and private landowners to make improvements to their land, helping clean water and air, enhance habitat and enrich soil. This past year, NRCS worked with farmers, ranchers, and forestland managers in the five Gulf states to improve the health of more than 3 million acres.
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