WASHINGTON, May 22, 2012 (USDA) — 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 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.
"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."
Landowners interested in applying for funding should contact their local NRCS office (http://go.usa.gov/m2Y) or the partner listed below. Signup dates may vary based on the individual project.
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
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
North Raccoon River Wetland Initiative
NRCS and Partner Funding: Iowa Department of Natural Resources $6,183,000
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. Learn more about the WREP at http://go.usa.gov/m24 and find out about other NRCS programs and initiatives at http://go.usa.gov/m22.
NRCS is celebrating the 20th anniversary of WRP this year. More than 11,000 of America's private landowners have voluntarily enrolled over 2.3 million acres into the WRP. The cumulative benefits of these wetlands reach well beyond their boundaries to improve watershed health, the vitality of agricultural lands and the aesthetics and economies of local communities. Visit the WRP web page at http://go.usa.gov/Vkc.
USDA works with state and local governments and private landowners to conserve and protect our nation's natural resources – helping preserve our land, and clean our air and water. President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors initiative in 2010 to foster a 21st century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people. During the past two years, USDA's conservation agencies—the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Farm Service Agency—have delivered technical assistance and implemented restoration practices on public and private lands. We are working to better target conservation investments: embracing locally driven conservation and entering partnerships that focus on large, landscape-scale conservation.