PORTLAND -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met Thursday with Oregon conservation leaders to discuss a new effort to get farmers and conservation groups working together.
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program was created by the Farm Bill that passed this year in Congress. Lawmakers set aside $1.2 billion for the program. Partnerships around the country are competing for a share of the money for initiatives that protect soil, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
Vilsack met with reporters after the meeting. He said the program sets a new direction for conservation.
“We want to partner with state and local governments. We want to partner with conservation groups, with habitat groups, with farm associations and groups. All with the goal of improving conservation," he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has received 625 applications submitted nationally. The first winning proposals are expected to be announced this fall.
Eleven of those proposals have come from Oregon. They are seeking a combined $30 million, according to Oregon State Conservationist Ron Alvarado. They include proposals to improve forest and soil health, prevent wildfires and protect sage grouse habitat.
Vilsack also met Thursday with Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to discuss rural economic development initiatives and Oregon’s forest restoration programs.