USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced Monday that through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), it will award up to $360 million in grants to public-private partnerships that “improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.”

The announcement also introduces changes to RCPP Critical Conservation Areas. The California Bay-Delta and Columbia River Basin areas have been combined into the Western Waters Critical Conservation Area. The Northeast Forests and Waters Critical Conservation has also been added, which spans Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. RCPP was first authorized as part of the 2014 Farm Bill and there are currently 336 active projects in the program.

“RCPP brings an expanded approach to investing in natural resource conservation that empowers local communities to work with multiple partners and agricultural producers to design solutions that work best for them,” NRCS Chief Matt Lohr said in a release. 

Interested private industry, nongovernmental organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts and universities can submit project applications requesting between $250,000 and $10 million in funding through the program. Proposals are due by November 4.

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