WASHINGTON, May 22 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners will invest nearly $32 million this year in financial and technical assistance for five water quality and wetlands improvement projects in seven Mississippi River Basin (MRB) states.
When fully implemented, the projects will prevent sediment and nutrients from entering waterways, decrease flooding and improve bird and fish habitat. NRCS estimates that this investment will restore 11,400 acres to wetland habitat in 7 states, according to USDA.
"These projects are great examples of USDA working with partners to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin," Vilsack said. "Through these projects, agricultural producers are voluntarily taking action to restore and protect wetlands on private lands in watersheds that USDA has identified as being critical to water quality restoration in the basin."
The projects and partners selected by USDA, include:
Arkansas: Boeuf River Watershed
NRCS and Partner Funding: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission $2,178,316
NRCS and Partner Funding: Craighead County Conservation District $214,748
Arkansas: Cache River and Lower Whit-Bayou Des Arc wetlands restoration
NRCS and Partner Funding: The Nature Conservancy $3,030,000
Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee: Lower Mississippi River Batture hardwood forest and wetlands restoration
NRCS and Partner Funding: Mississippi River Trust $20,231,933
Iowa: North Raccoon River Wetland Initiative
NRCS and Partner Funding: Iowa Department of Natural Resources $6,183,000
These five specific wetland projects will receive $31,837,997 from the USDA. “We are demonstrating every single day that voluntary conservation works,” Vilsack said.
NRCS provides funding for these new projects through its Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), part of the agency's Wetlands Reserve Program. Since 2010, NRCS has formalized WREP agreements under MRBI with 47 landowners in the Mississippi River Basin, investing $17.8 million in long-term conservation easements and wetland restoration projects.
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