New RCPP grants support waterfowl on working lands

NRCS announces FY17 RCPP funding. Eight proposals from DU and partners will provide $32.8 million to enhance water resources, grasslands, rice lands and wetlands for waterfowl.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Dec. 22, 2016 – Rice growers, ranchers, farmers and waterfowl across the country will benefit from eight Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) proposals approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) this week . The eight proposals submitted by Ducks Unlimited, USA Rice, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District, the Idaho Water Resource Board and the Legacy Land Conservancy will provide $32.8 million for projects to improve water quality and quantity; protect wetlands and grasslands; and improve the health of the several important watersheds.

“These projects approved by the NRCS will support diverse partnerships and provide multiple benefits to communities and wildlife, especially waterfowl, on working lands,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. “All of these proposals include a 1:1 match in cash and in-kind contributions, making them sound investments for the NRCS, the landowners committed to conservation and the public.”

Ducks Unlimited led three of the proposals. The Kansas Wetland Easement proposal focuses on agricultural easements on priority Kansas wetlands. The project will provide landowner outreach and education and assist with the application process and site restoration. RCPP funding for this project is $2.6 million.

Through the Prairie Pothole Working Lands Partnerships proposal, Ducks Unlimited and more than 20 conservation partners will improve water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat in the Missouri and Mississippi River watersheds. The project includes South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota and promotes the retention of working grasslands, experimenting with fall seeded cover crops and small grain crops and protection of wetlands. RCPP funding for this project is nearly $4.2 million.

“DU and its partners are excited to collaborate with NRCS in the Prairie Pothole Region to promote a broad range of cooperative working lands practices that will improve natural resource conservation through multiple local partnerships in targeted watersheds,” said Jonas Davis, DU manager of conservation programs for North Dakota.

Through the James River Watershed proposal in South Dakota, Ducks Unlimited and 10 partners will offer incentives to increase certain conservation practices in the watershed. Partners will establish a series of long-term demonstration farms to promote conservation farming strategies. The work should improve water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat and long-term sustainability of the watershed. RCPP funding for this project is $2.7 million.

Ducks Unlimited was a partner on five other RCPP proposals approved for funding. The Upper Huron River Watershed proposal in Michigan, led by the Legacy Land Conservancy, will address soil and water quality degradation. RCPP funding for this proposal is $1.8 million.

The Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer Stabilization Project led by the Idaho Water Resource Board received $5.1 million from NRCS. This project focuses on restoring ground water levels and maintaining stream flows in the Snake River.

In Nebraska, the Divots in the Pivots proposal led by the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District received $1.8 million. This proposal includes wetland restoration, grazing infrastructure, modifying irrigation pivots to ensure pivot travel through the restored wetlands, and maximizing irrigation inputs on adjacent cropland.

The Prairie Conservation Reservoir proposal led by LCRA will provide an off channel reservoir in Eagle Lake, Texas. This reservoir would provide irrigation water to more than 50,000 acres of ricelands and habitat for waterfowl and other water birds. RCPP funding for this project is $8 million.

USA Rice led the Mid-South Graduated Water Stewardship Program proposal focused on increasing water quantity, sustaining wildlife habitat, improving water quality, addressing climate change and saving energy in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. NRCS will provide $7 million through RCPP for this proposal. This was the latest effort as part of the USA Rice-DU Rice Stewardship Partnership .

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.