April 26, 2021

The Conservation Fund Receives Three USDA Awards to Support Local Food Systems and Water Quality in Georgia, Utah and Michigan

Media Statement by Larry Selzer, President & CEO, The Conservation Fund 
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s private farmers and ranchers have faced challenges. Yet they and their lands continue to play an integral role in feeding our families while also providing critical habitat for a wide array of wildlife. By working together, we can conserve these agricultural landscapes while supporting the viability of the landowners’ operations.

“The Conservation Fund applauds the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for its innovative approach to private lands conservation via the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). We know that partnerships leverage better results and make conservation work for America. That is why we are honored to be the lead organization on two FY2020-2021 RCPP awards that will advance longstanding conservation goals in Georgia and Utah and serve as a key implementation partner on one RCPP award for the Ann Arbor Greenbelt program in Michigan that will continue to address critical natural resource issues in the Lake Erie Basin.

“Sustainably managed working lands improve water quality and soil health while producing food for local communities. The voluntary, incentive-based solutions provided by these RCPP awards will conserve critical farmland and ensure it remains available to beginning and historically underserved farmers who will work to meet the growing demand for sustainably produced, locally sourced foods.

“We appreciate the leadership of Congress, who reauthorized RCPP in the 2018 Farm Bill, and the continued work by NRCS to successfully implement the program. By leveraging non-USDA contributions, these awards will accelerate local conservation solutions and benefit current and future generations of Americans.”


GEORGIA – Working Farms Fund, $4.8 million awarded

Building on a previous NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant awarded to The Conservation Fund, the Working Farms Fund presents an innovative conservation finance solution to address the rapid loss of critical farmlands in the Atlanta metropolitan area, while also supporting next generation farm stewards and protecting natural resources. By creating opportunities for ambitious, diverse farmers to access affordable farmland, this project will result in a more resilient regional food system, thriving local economies, expansion of sustainable agricultural practices, and increased access to healthy, nutritious foods. The Conservation Fund will work closely with local partners to implement this pilot project, including Athens Land Trust, Rodale Institute, University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, Emory University, Madison-Morgan Conservancy, and Oconee County Government.

UTAH – Camp Williams West Traverse Sentinel Landscape, $7 million awarded

Utilizing strategic planning, a longstanding partnership, and partner contributions, the West Traverse Sentinel Landscape (WTSL) RCPP will further the NRCS and Department of Defense conservation goals for the Army National Guard Camp Williams military installation, south of Salt Lake City. By implementing voluntary conservation easements with willing landowners, the project will preserve working lands in an area with increasing development pressure, while enhancing water protection and conservation and protecting active wildlife corridors. This innovative partnership will achieve both environmental and military readiness goals by including 12 partners, including the Utah National Guard, state and local government entities, and conservation NGOs with diverse knowledge and experience in the project area.

MICHIGAN – Lake Erie Conservation Partnership, $7.4 million awarded

Located in the Lake Erie Basin and southeast Michigan’s rapidly growing Ann Arbor/Detroit metropolitan areas, the Lake Erie Conservation Partnership will build on the success of two previous RCPP awards in the Great Lakes Critical Conservation Area to conserve working agricultural lands and green infrastructure vital to the overall health of Lake Erie’s waters. This new partnership represents the combination and expansion of that critical work, as well as strategic efforts to conserve and enhance productive soils vital to regional food system resiliency and security. The Lake Erie Conservation Partnership includes nine partners, including local conservation districts, land trusts and conservation nonprofits, townships, and more, with The Conservation Fund providing key support and capacity to the lead partner, the City of Ann Arbor.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect over 8.5 million acres of land, including farmland and forestland. The Conservation Fund works with agency, business, and nonprofit partners across the nation to implement successful conservation solutions, and we stand ready to implement these proposals.

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
RCPP is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on private agricultural lands. By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in delivering results for agriculture and conservation. This year, NRCS is investing $330 million in 85 partner-driven conservation projects across the country. Throughout its history, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands. For more information: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/rcpp/

Contact: Ann Simonelli | 703-7908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org