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Finding U.S. Stimulus Dollars For Your Private Property Conservation Project. By partnering with Federal Agencies, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations involved in larger scale conservation projects, individual property owners can greatly increase Stimulus opportunity for natural resource conservation.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), The Stimulus Bill, injects an unprecedented flood of funding into U.S. Government programs and initiatives. But, is there really any chance for individual property owners to get stimulus dollars for conservation?

The Obama Administration markets the legislation as necessary to save or create millions of jobs and address failing public infrastructure. The massive spending bill not only provides funds for social welfare and sweeping reform in health care but also money to restore failing bridges and dams, design a "smarter" electricity transmission grid, expand broadband technology, promote energy conservation, and provides opportunities to develop alternative energy and renewable resources.

Federal agencies began reporting on their use of funds on March 3, 2009. Many of these agencies have outlined general funding initiatives for their programs and some have already posted applications for contracts and grants for projects. As "shovel ready" projects are a priority mandated by the legislation much of the additional funding provided by ARRA will go to pre-approved projects or administrative costs within existing government programs.

At first glance, it looks like most of the stimulus dollars will be locked up in big government projects. Big federal, state and municipal projects do help conserve and protect our natural resources but non-publicly owned properties, or private lands, make up over 70% of U.S. land and natural resources. Conservation activities on private lands contribute greatly to the overall health and vitality of our ecosystems and property owners are still in need of financial aid and technical help to get the "little" projects done on private lands.

It still may be possible for the cash strapped property owner to get some of this big government stimulus for natural resource conservation on private properties. To find opportunities, let's look at how the initial, or first phase, of the stimulus is being used by the Federal Government Agencies to provide funding to states, local governments, private entities and nonprofit organizations.


The USDA, United States Department of Agriculture oversees the NRCS, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Forest Service and Rural Development. USDA will receive a total $28,025,940,000, or 3.5% of the stimulus package.

NRCS, developed in the dust bowl era of the 1930's to save American farmland from critical soil erosion, currently provides funding and technical assistance to farmers and private landowners to protect a greatly expanded array of natural resource values including soil, water, air, plants and animals. Though farmers and ranchers are the primary recipients of NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Security Program (CSP) grants, non-farms can also can benefit from NRCS programs. For example, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) provides cost share grants and technical assistance to non-farm properties for fish and wildlife habitat establishment and improvement. Of the over $ 28 billion USDA gets from the stimulus bill, $50,000,000 will go NRCS Aquaculture Assistance, $290,000,000 to NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention programs and $50,000,000 to the NRCS Watershed Rehabilitation Program.

$145,000,000 of NRCS stimulus money will go to the NRCS Watershed Operations Program. This Program targets watershed protection and includes fish and wildlife enhancement, flood mitigation, wetland creation and restoration, water quality improvements, and soil erosion reduction for watersheds designated by the Flood Control Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-534). An additional $145,000,000 will go to the Floodplain Easement Program that allows NRCS to purchase easements on private property to restore proper floodplain function while retaining some private property rights such as recreational use.

Much of the USDA Forest Service plans for the stimulus dollars focus on Wildland Fire Protection or hazardous fuels removal, improvements to Forest Service infrastructure and road management. The first set of projects, or just 10% of Forest Service's approximately $1 billion dollars, will inject money for fuel reduction, or brush removal, on both public and private forest lands into a variety of states across the U.S. from Oregon to Florida. Forest Service plans involve local contractors, community service organizations and nonprofits. An added benefit includes training for youth volunteer corps in natural resources.

USDA Rural Development also gets a bit of the stimulus money for water resource protection. WEP, or Water and Environmental Programs, provides loans, grants and loan guarantees to local governments, and nonprofit organizations for...(cont.)

Part 2. Read on to learn about other Federal Agencies and how you may greatly improve your chances for stimulus money.