The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) has awarded more than $22.6 million to drive innovation in conservation this year. Nationwide in 2017, 33 projects are receiving funding through the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program.
The CIG program helps develop tools, technologies, and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and market-based solutions to resource challenges. As of 2017, CIG awards total nearly $286.7 million in 711 projects since 2004.
There were a handful of programs funded that are geared to the west. They include, but are not limited to:
Development of Self-Sustaining Markets for Bird-Friendly Beef to Incent Grassland Conservation on Private Lands Across the Grain Plains
National Audubon Society is leading the effort to develop a program to certify and link bird-friendly grassland management to consumers whose values include healthy bird populations and thriving rural communities. The project proposes to fully develop the supply chains of the Audubon Conservation Ranching program, which aims to provide ranchers with access to premium beef markets. The intent of the project is to create the first scalable self-sustaining model for a linked network of ranchers and consumers of bird-friendly beef. The program, which was funded $1,500,000 of CIG funds, will be piloted and scaled to fully functioning, self-sustaining ranch-to-retail markets across Colorado, Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
Beginning Tribal Ranching Training
The Hualapai Tribe was funded $102,461 to create an implement a tribal ranching training course in Arizona. The course will teach tribal youth and beginning ranchers sustainable grazing and livestock techniques. The program, which is a collaboration with the Hualapai DNRC and the University of Arizona Extension office, will emphasize outreach and one-on-one technical training.
Liquid Assets Project: Mobilizing Impact Investment Capital for Agricultural Water Sustainability
Led by Trout Unlimited, the Liquid Assets program was awarded $1,400,000 to develop and pilot a series of impact investment opportunities in the Colorado River Basin in Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming. The project will build on the October 2015 Liquid Assets report, which analyzed strategies to address water management and agricultural production in the Colorado River Basin.
Demonstration of an Advanced Distillation and Nutrient Separation Processor for Dairy Wastewater
One million dollars was awarded to the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians in Washington to help fund a water management program, which will demonstrate successful implementation of an emerging animal waste treatment system for dairy farms. The program will utilize a advanced distillation and nutrient separation processor technology to convert wastewater into clean, distilled water. The byproducts of the process, liquid ammonia and nutrient-rich solid materials can be used for agricultural purposes.
Environmental Price Assurance Facility
The Climate Trust is proposing to develop and launch the Environmental Price Assurance Facility, which will help mitigate the risks associated with the future value of environmental credits nationwide. The Facility will increase certainty for investors and project developers by serving as a buyer-of-last-resort for credits. The intent is for the increased market certainty to help spur implementation of agriculture and forestry conservation projects, which will bring additional income to landowners. This conservation finance program was funded $900,000 for the Facility.
To read the full list of 2017 CIG, check out the USDA's interactive map of awards.