On October 15, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and several conservation partners submitted a letter to Acting Chief Kevin Norton of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) regarding recent amendments to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s (RCPP) current Application for Public Funding (APF). A conservation program authorized and funded through the Farm Bill, RCPP leverages partner funding from diverse matching sources with dollars received through RCPP grants to implement critical conservation practices on agricultural or forest lands. The letter, signed by 10 organizations, thanked Chief Norton for the NRCS’s actions to address concerns about program eligibility for nonindustrial private forest landowners.
Originally released on August 6 with an application deadline of November 4, the current APF included eligibility criteria that created confusion among nonindustrial private landowners who utilize their forest lands for commercial purposes, like selling timber to processors. These criteria were meant to further distinguish ineligible industrial forest lands (i.e., those owned by entities that also process timber) from nonindustrial private forests that are a primary target for RCPP forest conservation efforts. In response, several organizations representing forest landowners, conservationists, and sportsmen shared their concerns with NRCS and USDA officials. Fortunately, during a hearing with members of the U.S. House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee on October 1, Chief Norton announced plans to remove the eligibility language that was creating the confusion and extend the application deadline through the end of November. The amended APF was published on October 14.
CSF and our partners appreciate Chief Norton and the NRCS’s willingness to ensure that all interested and eligible landowners can apply for RCPP funding to address forest conservation needs. With a total of $360 million available during this application period, there exists a great opportunity to implement conservation efforts throughout our nation’s forests for the benefit of landowners, wildlife, and sportsmen.
Landowners interested in learning more about RCPP or other Farm Bill conservation programs can do so online at USDA’s website. Likewise, additional information on the updated RCPP APF can be found at Grants.gov.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?