New conservation program targets land in Scioto watershed

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CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio – USDA and Ohio officials announced a $207.3 million Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in Ohio’s Scioto River Watershed Oct. 18.
The watershed is the main source of drinking water for the city of Columbus.
Existing programs. The state has two existing Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs, in the western Lake Erie Basin and along the Upper Big Walnut Creek.
More than 1,500 stream miles have been protected by the programs. These buffers trap more than 90 percent of the sediment from entering the streams and rivers.
U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary James Moseley participated in the signing ceremony in Circleville with Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sam Speck.
The program will encourage the establishment of long-term and permanent conservation practices on 70,000 acres along 231 miles of the Scioto River and 3,000 miles of streams within the Scioto River watershed.
Landowners can offer eligible cropland and marginal pastureland in 31 central and southern Ohio counties in the watershed, an area of approximately 6,500 square miles.
Partners. The program is a cooperative project among landowners, USDA’s Farm Service Agency and the Commodity Credit Corporation, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and local soil and water conservation districts.
Other partners include the City of Columbus, which will help secure easements; the Nature Conservancy, which will provide financial assistance; Ducks Unlimited, which will provide financial resources and technical expertise; and Pheasants Forever, which will provide seed, seed drills and volunteers.
Additional partners include the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Ohio State University Extension.
Approved practices. Planting grass filter strips, riparian buffers and hardwood trees through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program will reduce agricultural pollution, soil erosion and the risk of downstream flooding throughout the watershed.
Cost share. Over the course of the contracts, participants will receive incentive payments and cost-share assistance for installing approved conservation practices.
The Farm Service Agency will also provide annual rental payments for the life of the contract.
The state will contribute no less than 20 percent of the overall costs, including payments to participants and in-kind contributions from private and public partners such as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the City of Columbus and nongovernmental groups.
The state will also offer permanent conservation easements on 5,000 enrolled acres to be funded by the Nature Conservancy, other private partners and, if available, through the state.
Sign-up. Sign-up for the Ohio Scioto River Watershed CREP will be announced later by the state and continues until enrollment goals are attained, or through Dec. 31, 2007, whichever comes first.
Land enrolled in the program will remain under contract for a period of 14 to 15 years, as specified in the contract.
The total cost over a 15-year period is estimated at $207.3 million, with FSA contributing $151.3 million and the state of Ohio and other partners funding $56 million.

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