By Mark Taylor, Trout Unlimited, eastern communications director (Published by request)
ARLINGTON, Va. — Virginia’s water resources will get a boost from nearly $3 million that will help Trout Unlimited launch a partnership project to address aquatic habitat, and water quality concerns in the Virginian headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the initiative is among 85 public-private collaborations just announced to tackle natural resource issues across the nation. Also included is $2 million to the Capital Region Land Conservancy for preservation of farmland in the Richmond metropolitan area.
Though the focal areas and approaches are different, all successful proposals offer compelling and innovative solutions to some of our country’s most pressing stewardship challenges. TU’s work will empower communities and private landowners to implement streamside restoration practices.
TU seeks to enhance/restore native trout habitat and water quality in the Upper James, Shenandoah and Upper South Branch Potomac watersheds, where centuries of land use changes and intensive agricultural practices have denuded streambanks of vegetation creating warmer water temperatures, and excessive streambank erosion causing wild trout numbers to decrease.
TU will receive over $2.9 million to improve land management in Rockingham, Page, Augusta, Highland, Bath, Rockbridge and Shenandoah counties. The bulk of the funding will be available to producers as financial assistance to install priority best management practices such as stream bank stabilization, livestock exclusion fencing, and riparian buffers. TU will also use technical assistance RCPP funds to help landowners with the assessment, design and installation of conservation practices.
Seth Coffman, who oversees Trout Unlimited’s restoration program in the Shenandoah Valley, said the nonprofit is enthusiastic about collaborating with NRCS to provide additional technical assistance to farmers and help NRCS implement riparian corridor practices in targeted areas for water quality and habitat benefits in the Virginia headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“This RCPP award will expand Trout Unlimited’s technical and financial capacity in the Shenandoah Valley,” Coffman said. “It will give producers more opportunities to implement streamside conservation practices that reduce erosion, increase resiliency to severe storm events and improve instream habitat for eastern brook trout and other native species.”
TU has used and is using the RCPP for large restoration efforts in West Virginia, New England, and the Driftless Area in the upper Midwest, among other regions.
In Virginia, the type of stream restoration work TU will undertake through the RCPP is nothing new. TU launched the Shenandoah Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative more than a decade ago and the James River HRI in 2015. In that time TU has completed dozens of restoration projects and returned native brook trout to previously extirpated streams.
Previously completed projects include the restoration of Beaver Creek in Rockingham County and habitat improvements to famed Mossy Creek in the Shenandoah Valley.
What is new for TU through the RCPP program is the opportunity to partner with NRCS staff to meet the needs of landowners in a region of Virginia where farming and wild trout overlap.
“These initiatives are just the latest in a long line of locally led partnership projects benefitting the Commonwealth’s landowners and residents,” said NRCS State Conservationist Dr. Edwin Martinez. “Virginia has been the lead state for seven projects and a partner in four others that leveraged $33 million in partner funds to support out-of-the-box solutions to address a host of conservation concerns. We look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of this new collaboration with TU and CRLC.”
RCPP has been bringing new partners, resources and ideas to the table since 2014. This year, NRCS will invest $330 million to help local farmers, ranchers and forest landowners implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, enhance wildlife habitat and increase climate resilience.
The program funding announcement for Fiscal Year 2022 will be made this summer.
For more information on Virginia RCPP projects, visit this website.
To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA service center.
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