USDA-Private Projects Affecting 4 Deep South States

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday announced projects selected for a new conservation initiative encouraging partnerships between government and nonprofit organizations. Here are those involving and affecting four Deep South states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

         Some Regional Conservation Partnership Program projects are national, others regional and others for single states.

         The program sets out eight critical conservation areas covering many states. Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi all are in the Longleaf Pine Range, where the overall goal is to increase longleaf pine acreage from 3.4 million to 8 million acres by 2025. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama also are among 13 states in an area designated as the Mississippi River Basin. The overall goal for that region is to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment getting into the river from private lands, improving water quality across the area and reducing the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

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—Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers (ACFR) Conservation Partnership for Alabama, Florida, and Georgia


         Amount from USDA: $4 million

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         Lead partner: Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District

         More than 20 partners, including private industry and large nonprofit organizations, universities and local soil and water conservation districts, work together to improve water quality and quantity in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers Basin.


—Rice Stewardship Partnership — Sustaining the Future of Rice


         Amount from USDA: $10 million

         Lead partner: Ducks Unlimited, Inc. (DU)

         Ducks Unlimited, the USA Rice Federation, and 44 other partners work on projects to improve water quality, the amount of water, and wildlife habitat across 380,000 acres of rice farms in Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. Some will use remote sensing to estimate how many birds can use shallow waters.




—Coastal Headwaters Forest — Longleaf Conservation and Restoration


         Amount from USDA: $5 million

         Lead Partner: The Conservation Fund

         The 205,000-acre Coastal Headwaters project in Florida and Alabama will acquire conservation easements and replace loblolly pine with native longleaf pine on more than 150,000 acres in the two states. That will enhance habitat for more than 44 species of animals that depend on longleaf pine savannahs. It will also improve the quality of water going to the Gulf of Mexico.


—Securing Private Working Forests to Benefit Longleaf Pine, Threatened and Endangered Species, and Military Readiness


         Amount from USDA: $12 million

         Lead partner: U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities

         Projects will protect and maintain up to 20,000 acres of longleaf forest in and around up to 10 military installations in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana. Partners include the Department of Defense.




         Both of these projects list reducing the Gulf of Mexico dead zone among their objectives.




         Iowa Targeted Demonstration Watersheds Partnership Project

         Amount from USDA: $3.5 million

         Lead partner: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Division of Soil Conservation

         Projects in nine watersheds will work to get farmers and other landowners to reduce fertilizer use and runoff.




         East Fork Watershed Nutrient Reduction Initiative

         Amount from USDA: $600,000

         Lead partner: Clermont Soil and Water Conservation Districts

         Sponsors will help farmers find ways to reduce fertilizer and sediment runoff. The project also will monitor water quality and take algae samples to show the effect of those practices.






—Alabama Farmers Federation


         Amount from USDA: $1.7 million

         Lead partner: Alabama Farmers Federation

         The Alabama Farmers Federation will work to make sure that new irrigation is efficient and environmentally friendly in several watersheds where irrigation has increased up to 80 percent in the past few years.




—Enhancing Conservation in the Lower Flint River Basin of Georgia


         Amount from USDA: $1 million

         Lead partner: Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District

         Projects will use precision irrigation technology that waters soil only when and where the moisture is needed in an area where heavy irrigation and periods of drought threaten availability of water for both farmers and at-risk species.


—Protection of Soil and Water Quality in the Savannah, Oconee, Ogeechee, Ocmulgee, Satilla and Altamaha Watersheds


         Amount from USDA: $1 million

         Lead partner: Athens Land Trust

         The partners will give farmers and landowners technical assistance about sustainable livestock production, conservation practices, USDA programs and conservation easements. Farmers will be able to get money to put those ideas into practice through USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives and Agricultural Conservation Easement programs.




—Rice Stewardship Program in Southwest Louisiana


         Amount from USDA: $1.5 million

         Lead partner: Ducks Unlimited

         Ducks Unlimited and other partners will help at least 150 rice farmers plan, design and install conservation measures on up to 28,000 acres to improve water quality and winter wetland habit for waterfowl and other wildlife.


—Targeted Conservation Delivery to Improve Soil Health, Water Quantity and Quality


         Amount from USDA: $100,000

         Lead partner: Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry's Office of Soil and Water Conservation

         Louisiana's agriculture department and its partners will check land in five watersheds around the state to identify soil and water management problems that could hurt soil health and water quality, and help landowners and managers find ways to fix them.




—Migratory Bird Habitat Creation in the Lower Mississippi River Valley


         Amount from USDA: $900,000

         Lead partner: Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation

         Projects will create wetland habitats and help landowners understand the benefits of wetlands and winter water on working farms and wetland easements. USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives and Agricultural Conservation Easement program will help farmers provide high-quality feeding and resting habitats to birds migrating south.


—Wetland Habitat Restoration for Wildlife and Water Resources


         Amount from USDA: $1 million

         Lead partner: Delta Wildlife, Inc.

         This will improve wetland habitats in an area where many wetlands have been turned to farmland.



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