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USDA Awards More Than $2.5 Million for Watershed Studies

Contact: Jennifer Martin 202-720-8188

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2005 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded four grants totaling more than $2.5 million to universities that will study conservation practices and programs to make sure they are effective and practical to use. As part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), researchers will study the environmental and economic impacts of conservation practices at the watershed level.

“America's farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and our environment,” said Dr. Joseph Jen, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. “This research will provide farmers, ranchers and other natural resource managers with the information and tools needed to make informed decisions regarding their conservation practices.”

Each project, funded by Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, has research and extension components that examine conservation practices such as tillage, nutrient management, pest management, conservation buffers, and water management. Researchers will work directly with farmers, ranchers, land-owners, local agencies, state agencies and other natural resource managers to help determine which conservation practices to install, where and when practices should be installed, the impact of the practices and how to maintain them.

This year's projects are focusing their efforts on areas of public concern – drinking water quality, fish and wildlife habitability and recreational suitability. The four recipients are:

•  Cornell University, $650,000: Quantify the effectiveness of management practices in the Cannonsville watershed in the Catskills region of New York and develop methods to incorporate the best practices in local farm plans.

•  University of Arkansas, $650,000: Investigate management practices to maximize profit and minimize watershed water quality degradation in the Lincoln Lake watershed in the Ozark Highlands.

•  University of Georgia, $650,000: Evaluate past and present conservation practices in the Little River Experimental Watershed in the headwaters of the Suwannee River, evaluate factors influencing practice implementation and maintenance, inform stakeholders about issues and effects of land use activities on water quality.

•  University of Missouri, $630,000: Develop a watershed management plan for the Goodwater Creek watershed in northeast Missouri that includes realistic goals for improvement and takes economic realities into account.

CEAP's goal is to conduct a national assessment of environmental benefits and effects of 2002 Farm Bill programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Security Program and Conservation Technical Assistance.

CEAP is composed of two components. The national assessment will track environmental benefits that will allow for a direct comparison between benefits obtained and program expenditures. The watershed-level assessments will conduct more detailed evaluations of environmental benefits than is possible at the national scale, providing a framework for improving modeling capabilities and providing more research in assessing physical benefits of conservation practices at the watershed scale.

The four CSREES projects join 24 existing watershed studies led by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Agricultural Research Service, including four other CSREES sites in Ohio, Iowa, Utah, and Idaho . Additional information on conservation planning and technical assistance is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/nri/ceap.