The State Natural Resources Conservation Council (NRCC) has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to support its Vermont Stream Restoration and Protection Program.
Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts will deliver environmental and habitat benefits including improved aquatic organism passage and water quality protection measures through increased project implementation, including stream restoration, culvert replacement, and agricultural erosion and runoff prevention projects. The program will deliver technical and financial assistance to landowners across four prioritized river basins: the Winooski, Otter Creek, and Lamoille River Basins, as well as the Crosby Brook Watershed. The funding will focus on reviews of watershed planning documentation, conservation technical assistance, project implementation, and partner coordination to improve aquatic organism passage, restore stream and streamside habitats, and protect water quality. These projects will assist farmers in complying with the state’s Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) and reduce sediment and nutrient loading to Vermont’s surface waters when implemented on agricultural lands. The watershed planning efforts used to identify projects will ensure that investments and conservation impacts are optimized across multiple natural resource sectors. Funding for these efforts will extend through 2026.
“Vermont NRCS is excited about this partnership with the Conservation Districts and the State Natural Resources Conservation Council that will help deliver technical and financial assistance to landowners in prioritized river basins and improve soil and water quality,” said Vermont NRCS State Conservationist Vicky Drew.
In addition to NRCS, Conservation Districts will partner with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD), and NRCC. The benefits of stream restoration have been identified by all partners as critical to restoring stream equilibrium, protecting Vermont’s fish and wildlife populations, and improving flood resiliency. With more than 20 years of collaboration, the partners’ input, assessment, and planning will ensure the implementation of projects with the highest environmental and economic benefits.
Jill Arace, Executive Director of VACD and Associate Member of NRCC, says: “This is an exciting opportunity that will enable Vermont’s Conservation Districts to build upon their Trees for Streams and Soil Health programs to support farmers’ efforts to enhance streamside habitats and protect water quality.” Created by the Vermont Soil Conservation Act of 1939, Conservation Districts have long been dedicated to working with landowners and communities to promote the sustainable use of Vermont’s natural resources. RCPP will extend this mission and, as collaborators and service providers, Conservation Districts will ensure that projects are addressed from a local prescriptive. Districts will leverage knowledge and expertise developed through years of community engagement and work with landowners to address Vermont’s water quality concerns.
The grant comes from the 2020/2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), an initiative that enables partners to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. Through RCPP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships that address water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat to mitigate the impacts of climate change. As project leads, Conservation Districts will accelerate the impact of Vermont’s ongoing clean water and farm stewardship programs. For more information and to view an interactive map of all awarded RCPP projects, click here.
Water Quality Programs Manager
Natural Resources Conservation Council & Vermont Association of Conservation Districts