Wednesday, May 28, 2014

USDA Designates Three Mississippi River Region Critical Conservation Areas

Critical Conservation Areas (Click to Enlarge)
On Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of what the it termed "substantial investments in conservation projects across the country" through its implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (or "RCPP"); a new 2014 Farm Bill program.  In making the announcement, the agency designated three areas all or partially within the Mississippi River Basin among eight priority conservation areas that will have access to a "Critical Conservation Area" pool of RCPP funding made available nationwide.  The designation of a 13-state "Mississippi River Basin" as a Critical Conservation Area, according to USDA, will "accelerate conservation" and "continue to reduce nutrient and sediment loading to local and regional water bodies and to improve efficiency in using water supplies, particularly in the southern states."  USDA also named the "Prairie Grasslands Region" as priority conservation area. That region encompasses much of the western half of the Mississippi River Basin (including the Ogallala Aquifer), as well as the Red River valley - areas that "are facing critical conservation needs on working lands from frequent flooding and ponding (in the north) to prolonged drought and aquifer decline (in the Ogallala)," according to the USDA. In addition, USDA notes that the Prairie Grasslands Region offers "essential habitat" for a number of wild game and threatened species, including the lesser prairie chicken and sage grouse. The agency believes that designating the Prairie Grasslands Region as a Critical Conservation Area, will "accelerate conservation efforts to address these water resource and habitat issues" in the region.  In addition to the above two designations, the USDA named the "Longleaf Pine Range" as a Critical Conservation Area, including parts of its range in Louisiana and Mississippi.  USDA designated that area with the goal of improving "the profitability and sustainability of longleaf pine forest ecosystems" by increasing the longleaf pine acreage from 3.4 to 8 million acres by 2025.  You can follow these USDA links to read more about: the RCPP; the Critical Conservation areas; and the USDA request for project pre-proposals  (applications due July 14).

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