USDA’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) drew an overwhelming response from partners across the nation.

“This USDA program provides an entirely new approach to conservation at this scale,” said Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “RCPP offers a unique opportunity to harness innovation and welcome new partners into the conservation mission.  The program puts our partners in the driver’s seat, allowing them to find creative solutions to the conservation issues in their areas.”

By mid-July, partners had submitted pre-proposals for rigorous evaluation, including 201 for projects related to eight previously-designated critical conservation areas, 60 for multi-state and national-level projects, and 278 for state-level projects, six of which were from Montana.  Two partner organizations in Montana have been invited to submit their full proposals.

Montana applicants proposed conservation projects that aim to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat and other related natural resources on private lands.  The Prairie Grasslands Region received 40 pre-proposals totaling more than $240 million in NRCS funding.

“The amount of interest in RCPP from Montana groups and across the nation shows a strong commitment to better the quality of our land and water ecosystems,” said Montana State Conservationist Joyce Swartzendruber.  “We met with many groups during the pre-proposal process, and we expect interest in this program to remain strong in the next few years.”

RCPP provides a way for private companies, tribes, local communities and non-government partners to collaborate and invest in cleaner water and air, healthier soil and enhanced wildlife habitat. It will enable USDA to partner with third parties or work directly with producers in watersheds and other critical conservation areas to leverage private sector funding to maximize conservation investments.