(Scroll to the bottom of this blog post for 2019 Application Deadlines)
The USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has created an $8 million fund to support initiatives conserving the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse and enhancing ranch water quality in the Bi-State region of eastern California and western Nevada.
Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) spearheaded the funding request for this new “Livestock in Harmony with Bi-State Sage-Grouse” RCPP with ten other national, state, regional, and private partners.
How the “Livestock in Harmony with Bi-State Sage-Grouse” RCPP Works:
This program is designed to assist agricultural producers in the Bi-State region who want to adopt conservation practices on land they own or manage. It offers financial assistance to ranchers and landowners who wish to pursue projects that will restore sage-grouse and other wildlife habitat, improve agricultural water quality, conserve private ranchlands, and upgrade agricultural infrastructure.
The RCPP can help cover the costs of conservation projects that protect wetlands, conserve sage-grouse habitat and sagebrush systems, and safeguard productive ranchlands against development or conversion. Awarded in 2017, this $8 million funding pool is available until 2022, and is only accessible to agricultural producers operating in the Bi-State area.
For projects to be considered for funding through this RCPP, they must focus on one or both of the following goals:
- Permanent protection of ranches containing grasslands of special significance and/or wetlands, especially those containing habitat for the Bi-State greater sage-grouse.
- Implementation of pasture and rangeland management practices that will improve water quality, wetland habitat, and/or sagebrush systems.
Landowners can apply for this RCPP funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Of the $8M in NRCS funding, $7,235,000 will go to agricultural and wetlands conservation easement purchases through ACEP, and $765,000 will go to EQIP projects.
“Livestock in Harmony with Bi-State Sage-Grouse” Project Area:
The Bi-State region encompasses an area approximately 170 miles long and up to 60 miles wide. It includes portions of Douglas, Lyon, Carson City, Mineral, and Esmeralda Counties in Nevada, and portions of Inyo, Mono, and Alpine Counties of California in total, an area of 7,000 square miles.
The Project Area for this RCPP is denoted in red on this map:
Private landowners within the area designated above are eligible for project funding assistance through this RCPP. Under some circumstances, ranchers with the authority to operate on public lands (e.g. a grazing lease or permit) in this area are also eligible for funding.
Partners in this RCPP:
Eastern Sierra Land Trust is the lead partner in this RCPP. The ten assisting partners are: Mono County, Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, the Nevada Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Mono County Resource Conservation District, Nevada Department of Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and U.S. Geological Survey.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)?
Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), RCPP is a new and highly-competitive program created in the 2014 Farm Bill. It is not itself a fund, but a national program that provides additional funding to specific regions and projects through existing funding sources. The intent of RCPP is to demonstrate the power of public-private partnerships to maximize the impact of federal conservation programs.
- RCPP provides assistance to willing agricultural producers who want to complete projects that address high-priority national concerns, such as: improving the nation’s water quality, combatting drought, enhancing soil health, supporting wildlife habitat, and protecting agricultural viability.
- RCPP funding is entirely separate from funds allocated annually to each state by NRCS.
- RCPP funding is voluntary, and must be applied for.
- Landowners can apply for RCPP funding through existing voluntary, incentive-based programs: in this case, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
- Funds provided to an approved RCPP partnership are available for five years.
What is an Agricultural Conservation Easement?
An agricultural conservation easement (ACE) is a voluntary land protection agreement between a private landowner and a land trust such as ESLT. It permanently protects the property’s resources and conservation values such as productive agricultural land, ground and surface water, wildlife habitat, historic significance, and scenic views.
The easement allows the owner to retain title and management of his or her land, while designating how the land will be used now and in the future. Every ACE is different, customized to the specific needs and desires of the landowner. Practically and legally, easements typically restrict certain land developments, such as subdivision for residential or commercial activities, industrial uses, and surface mining.
How Does the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Work?
From weather to pests to water quality issues, each American farmer faces a unique set of challenges. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps agricultural producers confront those challenges all while conserving natural resources like soil, water, and air.
Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement conservation practices. Using these practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil, and better wildlife habitat, while improving agricultural operations. Through EQIP, you can voluntarily implement conservation practices, and NRCS co-invests in these practices with you.
Examples of eligible EQIP projects include restoring wetlands, constructing wildlife-friendly fencing, preventing erosion by planting native grasses and shrubs, and reducing nonpoint source pollution to creeks and rivers.
What is the Role of Eastern Sierra Land Trust and its Ten Partners?
ESLT and its partners will provide technical assistance, direct financial assistance, and in-kind services, such as outreach and education, monitoring, land stewardship, restoration, and administrative services.
- RCPP partners will support outreach, education, and field trips that aim to increase participation in EQIP and assist landowners in preparing EQIP applications.
- Together, the eleven partners have pledged to more than double the $8M RCPP investment to support the goals of the project.
- As the lead partner, Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) wrote and submitted the RCPP proposal. ESLT will coordinate work with the other partners and report annually to NRCS on progress towards the goals of the RCPP.
- ESLT signed a memorandum of understanding with NRCS that includes a plan of work and budget detailing the roles of ESLT, the RCPP partners, and NRCS in implementing the RCPP.
ESLT does not receive any NRCS funding to cover administrative, staff, or travel expenses associated with this partnership.
Are groups able to participate in the RCPP if they aren’t existing partners?
Yes. Organizations that wish to pursue the goals of the RCPP are welcome to participate. For example, land trusts, producers’ collaboratives, Conservation Districts, and other groups may propose, assist, and complete projects with NRCS that help increase leverage of this RCPP.
What are some Examples of Eligible Projects
- Conservation treatment that will reduce invasive species identified by a local work group, Cal-IPC, or Weed Management Area; control invasive/noxious weeds such as cheatgrass or medusahead that will result in improved quality of sagebrush, native bunchgrass and forb community, and lower risk of catastrophic fire.
- Projects addressing threats associated with conifer invasion, fencing, watering facilities, and habitat management in proximity to important sage-grouse habitat.
- Practices that reduce impacts from sediment, nutrients, coliform, or pesticides on land adjoining a designated “impaired water body” (TMDL, 303d-listed waterbody, or other).
- Conservation easements that protect or restore healthy sagebrush systems, especially those that support the Bi-State sage-grouse.
Apply for this RCPP
Any landowner or organization interested in pursuing a project that will benefit the goals of this RCPP is encouraged to contact Susanna Danner, ESLT Land Conservation Program Director, at (760) 873-4554 or .
To have your project considered in the 2019 funding cycle, proposals must be submitted between March 19, 2019 and April 19, 2019.
RCPP activities related to Bi-State sage-grouse habitat will be prioritized based on Bi-State Action Plan recommendations. To learn more about the Bi-State Action Plan, visit bistatesagegrouse.com.