PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 27, 2019 — Finding better ways to combat invasive weeds…developing planning tools to sequester carbon in forests…creating pollinator habitat on irrigation pipeline corridors…these are just a few applications that will come to fruition in the coming years thanks to funding from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) via its Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program.
CIG funds stimulate the development of innovative approaches and technologies for conservation on farms, ranches and forests. These grants can be awarded to individual agricultural producers, local and state governments, tribes, colleges and universities, and other groups.
CIG enables NRCS to work with other public and private entities to accelerate transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address pressing natural resource concerns.
“We think of CIG is a down payment on future conservation planning and implementation,” said Jay Gibbs, acting state conservationist for NRCS Oregon. “CIG proposals need to have a line-of-sight to the landowner. Our ultimate goal is to take an application developed through CIG and make it accessible on a broader scale, for example creating a new NRCS practice standard.”
This year, NRCS Oregon has selected five recipients that will receive funding through the 2019 state-level CIG program, totaling $279,831 in investments:
Innovative Approach to Controlling Medusahead at a Management Scale. – $36,798 awarded to the Burns Paiute Tribe Natural Resources Department Wildlife Program.
This project will test the applicability of using a combination of prescribed fire, pre-emergent herbicide applications, and seeding to control medusahead and successfully revegetate invaded sites with more desirable plants. Medusahead is an invasive weed that can outcompete native vegetation to the point of almost total replacement. Sites invaded by medusahead pose several challenges to ranchers and wildlife, such as impacts to wildlife habitat, less quality forage for cattle and increased wildfire risk. This project will develop recommendations for revegetation efforts at a management scale and compare the efficiency of different types of herbicide applications within these treatment combinations.
Modern Land Mapping Tooklit to Streamline Forest Stewardship Planning. – $75,000 awarded to EcoTrust.
This project will design a free, open-source web app that will help both private woodland owners and foresters access publicly-available data about natural resource conditions on their land for the purposes of developing a forest stewardship plan. Currently landowners often spend days to months navigating a dozen or more websites, learning new software, or visiting local offices to gather maps and tables describing their property and natural resource conditions. This hurdle is an incredible disincentive for woodland owners who are interested in better forest management but lack the time or capacity to navigate a myriad of data sources just to get started. By leveraging modern technologies to significantly reduce the time and effort required to gather the prerequisite information for forest planning, this tool will accelerate the planning process and expand the adoption of sustainable forest management and conservation practices.
Creating Pollinator Habitat Along Irrigation District Pipeline Corridors – $60,293 awarded to Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District.
This is a pilot project between local stakeholders and irrigation districts to increase pollinator habitat by reseeding invasive weed-covered irrigation pipeline corridors with native plants. Irrigation infrastructure modernization provides a unique opportunity to explore and implement cost-effective pollinator conservation efforts. Irrigation districts, ditch companies, and similar entities deliver water from rivers and streams through open canals, laterals, and ditches to farms, ranches, and orchards across the region. This infrastructure is often porous and up to 100 years old, decreasing water conveyance efficiency and creating management challenges. Responding to these challenges, irrigation districts have begun to replace their open canals, laterals, and ditches with buried, pressurized pipelines in order to conserve water, improve agricultural water supply reliability, and restore streamflow for fish and wildlife. Districts reseed newly-modernized pipeline corridors with vegetation and manage them to protect the integrity of the pipes. This project will leverage that existing corridor of vegetative cover by integrating pollinator-friendly plants and developing recommendations for broader use. The overarching goal is to create a methodology for pollinator habitat implementation and monitoring along irrigation infrastructure that can be scaled across Oregon and the western U.S.
Online Native Plant Selection Tool to Inform Conservation Practices. – $74,120 awarded to Oregon State University
This project will expand information available on the Oregon Flora website’s native plant selection tool (http://oregonflora.org) to include 100 native taxa from eastern Oregon and develop fact sheets for each. The project will help NRCS staff, conservation partners, and clients make informed decisions about what species to use and where to find them in Eastern Oregon. Success in maintaining, enhancing, or restoring plant habitats depends upon having accurate information about the native species appropriate for the project site. There are currently no readily accessible resources covering the entire state to help both the conservation expert and the client select a suite of plant species that, when planted together, will best accomplish the desired conservation practice.
Developing a Carbon Farm Planning Toolkit for Oregon. – $33,620 awarded to Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District.
This project will create a Carbon Farm Planning Toolkit to help conservation planners address carbon sequestration accounting in the conservation planning process in Oregon. This project will provide a first step for Oregon NRCS and conservation districts to be prepared to provide technical assistance to private landowners on carbon sequestration. The project seeks to transfer knowledge and experience from Resource Conservation Districts in California who are currently using a Carbon Farm Planning framework; recruit local expertise; and form a technical advisory committee to review and provide input on work products. The goal is to develop pilot plans for three farms in Yamhill County. Carbon planning focuses on practices across the entire property that can either decrease greenhouse gas emissions or increase the carbon being sequestered on the farm by increasing plant productivity or soil organic matter while still meeting the landowner’s agricultural goals for the property.
NRCS accepts proposals for CIG funds annually at both the state and national level. For more information about submitting a grant proposal, visit the NRCS Oregon Conservation Innovation Grants webpage.