Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced January 14th that the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) has been selected to receive funding through the inaugural USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

The $12 million award will fund conservation easements on working forests in four southern states. RCPP is a new program of the 2014 Farm Bill administered by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“We are thrilled to be selected for funding in the inaugural Regional Conservation Partnership Program,” said Endowment President and CEO Carlton Owen. “This new USDA program is a bold approach to support locally-driven solutions for natural resource challenges. We commend Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller for their leadership in facilitating such an innovative, public-private partnership.”

The Endowment’s proposal was crafted in partnership with the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, which is providing matching funds, and The Nature Conservancy. The Endowment’s RCPP award will simultaneously address several important challenges. Funding will be used to place conservation easements on forests, particularly those with longleaf pine or the potential to restore longleaf pine ecosystems.

Easements will help reduce forest loss and fragmentation, a key threat to both the forest industry and to a host of environmental concerns, from ecosystem services such as clean water, to wildlife habitat. Most properties will be “working forests” that will be managed for a wide range of products from lumber to paper, thus providing continued income for forest owners while supporting rural jobs.

From Forest Business Network: