With the 2018 Farm Bill came substantial changes to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). For fiscal year 2019 and each year afterward, up to $300 million is available. All proposals for Fiscal Year 2019 RCPP funding are due December 3, 2019.
The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications under the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) for the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) and the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) programs. The deadline for funding in Montana is March 1, 2018. The announced cut-off date for funding consideration in Wyoming is January 26, 2018.
Montana Aquatic Resource Services recently released a white paper on Channel Migration Easements (CME). A specific form of conservation easement, a CME allows a landowner to continue to use their land while allowing the river to migrate across the floodplain within the easement boundaries. So far MARS has worked with conservation partners and thoughtful landowners to close Montana's first two channel migration easements (CMEs).
The 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 program. There were a handful of innovative programs funded that are geared to the American West including several conservation finance projects.
The deadlines for local conservation districts and landowners to apply for funds under the Water Quality Grant Program (WQGP) and the Rangeland Health Assessments Program (RHAP), both Wyoming Department of Agriculture funding programs, are coming up in early June. Both programs require projects to have a 30% match, which can be cash or in-kind, and can also be federal funds such as 319 grand funds.
The large task of preserving heritage and conserving natural resources across the American West takes multi-faceted and concentrated efforts. The private sector serves as an important partner in the collective work to achieve the preservation and conservation outcomes in many individual communities and ecosystems. Though there are many businesses across the country that traditionally support these efforts, the beer industry in particular has continued to support restoration, preservation and conservation efforts in both interactive and innovative ways.
National agriculture industry consulting and CPA firm K-Coe Isom recently announced a new program aimed to help ranchers generate revenue from conservation projects while simultaneously reducing the rancher’s inherent risk of testing and implementing such projects. Funded by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the program is specific to ranchers whose property is located in priority sage grouse habitat or crucial mule deer winter range or designated mule deer migration corridors within Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, or California.
Focused on the Great Basin, one of 22 Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in North America, the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative (Great Basin LCC) represents a partnership among public and private groups. The Great Basin LCC supports landscape-scale conservation, promotes science, and enables management based on traditional knowledge and science so human and ecological communities can respond and adapt to climate and land use change.
The High Divide region of Idaho and Montana straddles the Continental Divide along the Idaho-Montana state line and is the center of connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Crown of the Continent and the wilderness Central Idaho. Although the region only encompasses two states, it has continental significance because it houses headwaters for the Missouri and Columbia watersheds and it is a stronghold for wildlife that have disappeared from much of their historic range.
To protect this crucial area, the High Divide Collaborative is bringing stakeholders together to work collectively to conserve and restore lands of importance for local communities and to protect ecological integrity at the landscape scale.
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Because the ways in which land is managed affects the future ability to utilize the land, there's a case to be made to consider adaptive management today to best plan for tomorrow. By definition adaptive management is simply the systematic approach for improving resource management by learning from management outcomes.
2016 is the first in over 15 years that the tax incentives associated with conservation easements have been permanent. The permanency of the deductions translates to a reliability that allows landowners to make more informed strategic decisions and plan for the future of their farms and ranches with more certainty than in the past.
Every winter, The Land Report releases a Top 100 List of America's Largest Landowners. Earlier this month, the magazine unveiled the 2016 list. Though the top two remain unchanged, there are many new names on this year's list. Of the top 25 landowners by acreage, 20% are classified as "new to the list" meaning that in 2015 their land holdings did not qualify them for a spot in the top 100.