FLA submitted comments in the Federal Register advocating for greater access for all types of forest landowners to the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
The RCPP program has traditionally supported large-scale conservation projects to implement innovative solutions with a broad range of partners.
However, recent rule changes to the program created barriers to participation for many forest landowners. These rule changes put in place unnecessary hurdles for larger, more complex ownerships to participate in the program. The changes also required participants to bring matching funds to the table instead of counting in-kind contributions such as forest management,
FLA is acting now to help open up opportunities for all landowners – from TIMOs to family ownerships – to participate in conservation projects at scale. FLA partnered with The Conservation Fund, Resource Management Service, Lyme Timber, and others to form a coalition to petition the NRCS to remove these new, unnecessarily burdensome requirements, thus paving the way to greater partnership and more effective conservation on the ground.
The coalition held a virtual meeting with NRCS officials to voice our concerns in March. In May, this coalition filed separate comments in the Federal Register urging the NRCS to make key changes to allow greater access for all types of forest landowners to participate in RCPP projects.
The comments are for these main areas:
- For US-held easements, we strongly urge the NRCS to provide 100 percent of the easement value for any project.
- We urge NRCS to provide more flexible easement deed terms – and that deed terms NOT be linked to the level of funding provided for easements.
- We recommend that NRCS allow producer and partner in-kind contributions to count toward the project contribution match.
- We urge the NRCS to allow non-federal cost-share to include (at a minimum) the same options as the current Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program
Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) Waivers
- We recommend that the process for AGI waivers be changed to better accommodate complex ownership structures
RCPP Implementation Flexibility
- Finally, RCPP implementation flexibility is critical to efficiently and effectively achieving conservation goals at scale.