Leahy Hails Boost To Vermont Water Quality Funding

. . . . USDA today designates New England as a new ‘Critical Conservation Area’ to support water quality and wildlife habitat restoration

(THURSDAY, Aug. 6, 2020) – Vermont’s ongoing efforts to address water quality received another significant boost Thursday as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new initiative to address New England water quality and wildlife habitat work on a regional scale.  The creation of a new Critical Conservation Area (CCA) within USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), will allow Vermont to partner with other New England states on large-scale conservation projects.

Leahy, who helped create the public-private partnership program in the 2014 Farm Bill and worked to increase its funding levels and performance in the 2018 Farm Bill, praised the decision.  Leahy said:  “Every Vermonter knows that investments in our ‘great’ Lake Champlain and other watersheds will help secure these irreplaceable resources for generations to come.  We created this program in the Farm Bill out of a recognition that conservation requires all of us working together, and that success hinges on both the public and the private sector.  This significant step will help expand that work to a regional scale, giving Vermont, with partners across New England, access to even more federal resources for this important work.”

Vermont has already benefited from the two-part Regional Conservation Partnership Program, including a $16 million grant to the State of Vermont—in partnership with dozens of nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations—from USDA in 2015 to implement water quality improvement projects in the Lake Champlain Basin.  That grant, which helped unlock more than $20 million in matching funds from local partners, has been renewed by USDA for an additional five year period.  The designation of New England as a Critical Conservation Area will allow Vermont to seek funding through the CCA portion of the program, for which 50 percent of the program’s funds are reserved.

Leahy, the Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a leading member and former chair of the Agriculture Committee, has long led in Congress in securing funds for protecting and improving the water quality of Lake Champlain.

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