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Drone image of farm field with light pink cloudy mist on the right

Amy Blaymore Paterson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC), and Katie Dykes, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), have announced their Connecticut Conservation Partnership Program has been awarded more than $6.7 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A public-private partnership between CLCC and DEEP, the program will use the funds to bolster the ability of Connecticut’s land trusts to save and enhance the region’s natural heritage, economy, and quality of life by increasing land conservation across the state.

Through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing $330 million nationwide in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability.

Administered by CLCC, the Connecticut Conservation Partnership Program will establish a coordinated process by which land trust applicants to DEEP’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program (OSWA) may apply to the federal Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program as a source of match funds.

Said Paterson, “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with DEEP and NRCS to bring this significant source of match funding to the state’s land trust community at time when land conservation has never been more important and impactful. Collectively conserving and stewarding land in almost every municipality across the state, Connecticut’s land trusts are essential to meeting the state’s goal of conserving 21% of its land base (~673,210 acres) as well as the nation’s commitment to protecting 30% of its land and waters by 2030. With access to increased funding and technical assistance, Connecticut land trusts of all sizes have an enhanced opportunity to help meet these critical goals.”

“The State of Connecticut under the leadership of Governor Lamont has set ambitious goals to address the impacts of climate change,” said Katie Dykes, Commissioner of DEEP. “Ramping up state and local land conservation is pivotal to meeting those goals. DEEP is delighted to partner with CLCC to help more land trusts to pursue high quality land conservation projects in partnership with federal land conservation funding programs.”

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnership working at its best,” said Terry Cosby, Acting Chief for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “These new projects will harness the power of partnership to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”

“Through the RCPP Program, NRCS has created an atmosphere of new opportunity for locally-driven conservation partnerships,” said Connecticut NRCS State Conservationist Thomas L. Morgart. “The alliance of CLCC and DEEP will bring significant land conservation efforts to a state where development of critical agricultural land is proliferating. The goals set by this partnership group are notable, and I’m pleased this agency gets to be a part of it.”

Program components also include technical support from the Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT) and Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy (NCLC) for land trusts applying to ALE for matching funds and a grant program to provide financial assistance to land trusts for due diligence and transaction costs. The program components also include technical support for land trusts applying to ALE and financial assistance for land trust project due diligence and transaction costs.

“There has never been a more important time to invest in Connecticut’s extraordinary lands and waters and to protect them for future generations,”  said NCLC Executive Director Catherine Rawson. “NCLC looks forward to partnering on this bold and ambitious plan to increase the pace of conservation statewide.”

CFT Executive Director Elisabeth Moore said, “This is the first time Connecticut has had this level of committed federal match funding for open space and farmland protection. This grant is a huge shot in the arm for our local land trusts. Connecticut Farmland Trust is excited to be collaborating with CLCC and federal, state and nonprofit partners on this new program.”

With the RCPP investment matched by partner contributions over five years, the Connecticut Conservation Partnership Program seeks to assist land trusts in permanently protecting approximately 2,000 acres of forest and watershed land per year, including high-valued core and old-growth, riparian buffers, corridors, active farmland, and smaller, yet critical, gap parcels and connectors that otherwise would not qualify for federal grant programs.

As a new partnership between CLCC and DEEP, with technical assistance from CFT and NCLC, the Connecticut Conservation Partnership Program builds upon the success of the existing OSWA and ALE programs, providing critical funding for more land trusts to pursue local, regional and statewide land conservation projects that protect our environment, public health, and economic well-being in municipalities across Connecticut.

For more information about the project, contact CLCC Executive Director Amy Blaymore Paterson at abpaterson@ctconservation.org

For more information about the RCPP Program, visit the NRCS website.

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From USDA-NRCS announcement