The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Georgia (NRCS-GA) has announced a ranking date for the conservation easement portions of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Interested producers must apply by November 17, 2023, for their application to be included in this batch of program funding.
Georgia State Conservationist, Terrance O. Rudolph, and partner groups, announced this sign-up for four regionally-focused conservation projects funded through the RCPP. Each project has unique objectives and boundaries.
“RCPP is helping NRCS reach more customers and get more conservation on the ground,” said Rudolph. “By combining resources with our partners and utilizing their networks and expertise, we are building a more climate smart, military ready and overall resilient state.”
The four Georgia projects are:
Project ID# 1960 – Red Hills to the Coast:
This project was developed in conjunction with Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. The project area includes the entirety of the St. Marks River and Aucilla River watersheds in both Georgia and Florida which contain a considerable number of working lands and forested areas. The focus of the project is to help area landowners implement exemplary land management practices to enhance and steward natural plant communities, wildlife habitats and water resources.
The focus areas for this project are portions of Brooks, Thomas and Grady County within the St. Marks River and Aucilla River watersheds.
Project ID# 2061 – The Georgia Sentinel Landscape:
This state project covering Georgia, was developed in conjunction The Georgia Conservancy Inc., working with the Georgia Sentinel Landscape (GSL), which is a partnership also consisting of the USDA, the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Defense, the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust and over a dozen other partners. Sentinel Landscapes are working natural lands that are important to the National Defense mission. These are places where preserving the working and rural character of key landscapes strengthens the economies of farms, ranches, and forests in addition to protecting the military’s mission.
The Georgia Conservancy and partners plan to expand prescribed fire efforts to improve longleaf pine ecosystem management. This funding is a portion of the GSL project, which collectively invests almost $4.3 million, complements Department of Defense Sentinel Landscape activities in Georgia, and supports Georgia’s Gopher Tortoise Initiative goals.
The 60-county focus area for prescribed fire and firebreak related practices for this land management funding announcement include Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Ben Hill, Berrien, Bibb, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Coffee, Columbia, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glascock, Glynn, Houston, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Lanier, Laurens, Liberty, Long, Lowndes, Macon, Marion, McIntosh, Montgomery, Muscogee, Pierce, Pulaski, Richmond, Schley, Screven, Sumter, Talbot, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Turner, Twiggs, Ware, Warren, Wayne, Wheeler, Wilcox, and Worth.
Project ID# 2574 – Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative:
Led by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the Georgia Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative seeks to permanently protect at least 65 viable gopher tortoise populations and 100,000 acres of habitat in Georgia, while managing that land to maintain its habitat value. To date, 61 populations have been protected. Protecting 65 populations will help preclude the need to list the tortoise under the Endangered Species Act. Avoiding an Endangered Species Act listing will benefit the tortoise and its habitat and help maintain a compatible economic environment for Georgia’s forest owners, agricultural producers, and the business community. Military operations in the state will also benefit, as gopher tortoises are found on several military installations.
Counties in which producers are eligible to apply for this project include Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brantley, Brooks, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Calhoun, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Clay, Coffee, Colquitt, Columbia, Cook, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Grady, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Johnson, Lanier, Laurens, Lee, Liberty, Long, Lowndes, Macon, Marion, McDuffie, McIntosh, Miller, Mitchell, Montgomery, Muscogee, Pierce, Quitman, Randolph, Richmond, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen, Turner, Ware, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, Wilcox and Worth counties.
Project ID# 2419 – The Working Farms Fund:
The Conservation Fund’s, The Working Farms Fund project, will permanently protect significant farmland across the Atlanta metropolitan “foodshed”, and create conservation opportunities for ambitious, diverse farmers to build a resilient regional food system by integrating sustainable farm practices into their production.
The six-county project area in north Georgia will address resource concerns for healthy soil, water quality, wildlife, and protection of farmland in Harris, Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Newton, and Rockdale counties.