On Jan. 14, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that 115 high-impact projects across all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in federal funding as part of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In addition, these projects will leverage an estimated $400 million more in partner contributions to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat, and enhance the environment.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation efforts,” said Vilsack. “These partnerships empower communities to set priorities and lead the way on conservation efforts important for their region. They also encourage private sector investment, so we can make an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own.”

RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, nonprofit organizations, local and tribal governments, and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower, and materials to their proposed initiatives. Over the life of the 5-year Farm Bill program, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from participating partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.

More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel will work with applicants that did not receive funding during this round of awards to strengthen their applications for future funding rounds. See a full list of projects that will receive funding allocated for the first two years of the program. The next announcement of program funding for fiscal year 2016 will be made later this year.