A major new grant targets improvements for fish and wildlife, water quality, farmland conservation, and climate resilience along New England’s largest river and its tributaries.
A group of partners working in the four-state Connecticut River Watershed will collaborate to protect land and water, use nature to help reduce the risk of floods, and manage nutrients and protect soil health under the 5-year, $4.98 million grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program is providing funding through the 2014 Farm Bill.
The grant recipients—which include Kestrel Land Trust, American Rivers, Connecticut River Conservancy, Franklin Land Trust, Hilltown Land Trust, Mass Audubon, Massachusetts Department of Ecological Restoration, Mount Grace Conservation Land Trust, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and Weyerhaeuser are part of the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, an established partnership of more than 70 local, regional and national organizations.
The Silvio O. Conte Refuge was established in 1997 to conserve the abundance and diversity of native plants and animals and their habitats in the 7.2-million-acre Connecticut River watershed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“This award will accelerate conservation of forests, farms, floodplains and fisheries,” said Kim Lutz, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut River Program, and the fiscal sponsor for the grant. “The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a unique funding source that capitalizes on the shared vision the project partners have for landscape-scale conservation. We look forward to drawing on decades of on-the-ground experience to help bring about a healthier and more resilient Connecticut River watershed.”
“This award will accelerate conservation of forests, farms, floodplains and fisheries.”
The work of grant recipients will focus on high-priority aquatic and terrestrial sites across the watershed.
An aquatic habitats team will work with NRCS to advance the pace, quality and scale of river connectivity and restoration projects across the watershed by identifying and completing dam removals, culvert assessments and restoring streamside habitat.
A terrestrial team will focus on working forests, farms and floodplains, collaborating with NRCS to identify and prioritize parcels that will safeguard water quality, protect streamside or wetland resources, and increase resiliency to climate change.
Using their extensive network of landowners and robust outreach programs, the partners work with interested landowners to identify and negotiate potential easements and complete successful easement acquisitions in partnership with NRCS.
Planned activities will build upon the recently adopted Friends of Conte strategic plan, as well as the vision articulated in such planning efforts as Connect the Connecticut.