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NRCS TO PROVIDE FEDERAL FUNDS TO PROTECT TEXAS'S WORKING FARMS AND RANCHES

Temple, Texas—The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting proposals until April 27, 2007, for the approximately $1 million now available to protect agricultural land in Texas through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

“This program helps communities preserve open space, wildlife habitat, and cultural resources,” said Walt Douglas, NRCS acting state conservationist for Texas. “This is an excellent way to keep prime farmland in agriculture and, at the same time, keep farming and ranching communities striving by relieving development pressures.”

Nationwide, $69 million is available to all 50 states, the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for FRPP projects in 2007.

NRCS is seeking proposals from local, state and federally recognized tribal governments and non-governmental organizations interested in working together to acquire conservation easements on farms and ranches. Proposals postmarked or received at the NRCS state office in Temple, Texas, by the close of business Friday, April 27, 2007, will be ranked and considered for funding. Final project selections are expected to be announced in June. Instructions for project proposals are available on the federal grants Web Site at http://www.grants.gov/search/search.do?oppId=13031&mode=VIEW and at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/frpp.

FRPP protects productive agricultural land by purchasing conservation easements to limit conversion of farm and ranch lands to non-agricultural uses. NRCS provides up to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement in this voluntary program. State, tribal and local entities can match that amount and they can include landowner donations in their match.

To date, NRCS and its sponsors in Texas entered 2,484 acres into four conservation easements through FRPP. Nationwide, NRCS has closed 1,682 conservation easements covering 331,557 acres since the program began in 1996.

Several changes were made to FRPP in 2007:

•      Easements must be closed within 18 months instead of the previously allowable two years.

•      Agreements will only be extended for extenuating circumstances.

•      Cooperative entities must submit additional documentation on acres of wetlands and forested land. Additional documentation will be needed for cultural resources if the parcels are qualifying based on their historic or archaeological characteristics.

•      Sponsoring entities must submit a list of alternative tracts of qualifying land in case a funded parcel is withdrawn from the program and the tract must be replaced from the list of alternatives.

For more information on FRPP, please visit http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/frpp/.

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