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USDA Announces Investment to Improve Critical Wetlands in Upper Columbia River Watershed Areas

Saturday, July 09, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Breanne Chavez
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USDA Announces Investment to Improve Critical Wetlands in Upper Columbia River Watershed Areas

SPOKANE, WA, July 7, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is awarding $44.6 million through its Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership to support 10 wetland enhancement projects on private and tribal agricultural lands in 12 states. Recipients for each project are providing more than $4.3 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment to approximately $49 million. In total, the projects will help to protect, restore or enhance 15,000 acres of wetland in critical watersheds across the United States.

In Washington State, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and lead partner Ducks Unlimited will complete restoration and enhancement of wetland, riparian and upland habitats on two existing Wetland Reserve Program easements in the Upper Columbia River watershed in northeast Washington. The project will provide important benefits to migratory birds and at-risk species while also addressing at least seven priority natural resource concerns such as soil erosion and water quality degradation identified in the 2012 NRCS State Resource Assessment.

“Ducks Unlimited is pleased to continue its long-standing partnership with NRCS and the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge,” said Mark Biddlecomb, Ducks Unlimited Director of Operations for the Western Region.

“This is the first Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership awarded in Washington and is consistent with our organization’s mission while contributing towards our goals in the Northern Great Basin Conservation Area. This grant will also help reduce NRCS’ backlog of restoration projects on existing Wetland Reserve Program easements in Washington and will leverage federal funds to provide important benefits to migratory birds, other wildlife and water quality in the Upper Columbia River basin,” said Biddlecomb.

WREP was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and is administered by NRCS. WREP helps states, local governments, tribes and other organizations collaborate with NRCS to work with private and tribal landowners to voluntarily enroll eligible land into conservation easements that protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property. WREP is a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

“USDA is committed to protecting and enhancing our nation’s wetlands, which are critical to the quality of our nation’s waters, wildlife and landscapes,” said Vilsack. “By collaborating with private partners at the local and regional level, USDA is able to support innovative conservations solutions and expand the amount of dedicated resources. These are high impact projects that will ensure our land and water resources are healthy now and for the next generation.”

Projects announcement today bring together partners leveraging technical and financial resources to address local concerns, such as water quality and flooding. Since 2009 private landowners, tribes and entities like land trusts and conservation organizations have enrolled nearly 1.3 million acres in NRCS wetland easement programs for a total NRCS investment of $3.2 billion in financial and technical assistance.

A full list of projects funded is available on the WREP website.

Visit NRCS's ACEP webpage to learn more about NRCS's wetland conservation opportunities.

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