2020 RCPP Now Started in the O2O!
RCPP -Regional Conservation Partnership Program
About The 2020 RCPP
The Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor is a 1.6 million acre landscape connecting Ocala and Osceola National Forests which has long been recognized as an important wildlife corridor and part of the statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor. Half of the O2O is already conservation land, and much of the remaining is working timberlands. North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) lead a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) centered on conservation and permanent protection of private lands in the O2O.
Through RCPP, the partner organizations help landowners conserve and manage their lands by expanding access to Farm Bill programs. The RCPP builds on existing partnerships with the Army National Guard (Camp Blanding) and State land protection programs and accelerates the overall O2O goal to protect 140,000 additional acres by 2040.
NFLT and NRCS already have an active RCPP that started in 2018. Under the 2018 RCPP, $3.56 million was awarded for land protection and management through 2023. We are currently working toward purchase of nearly 2,000 acres of conservation easements through the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP).
In April 2020 NFLT was granted a second RCPP award of > $9.4 million. This will help fund O2O conservation through 2026. For the 2020 RCPP, we address additional environmental concerns, including:
- Need for long term protection of land
- Improvement of degraded plant condition and terrestrial habitat
- Watershed protection
- Resilience to climate change
The $9,440,000 RCPP award from the NRCS will be matched by $11,405,100 from contributing partner organizations. In total, more than $20,000,000 will be available to fund conservation easements, new conservation lands, and conservation management practices through RCPP and Partner programs. In addition, the 2020 RCPP facilitates enhanced landowner outreach, greater public awareness of the O2O initiative, and it supports real estate transactions and and conservation easement stewardship.
We estimate more than 8,000 acres of land protection and conservation management will be funded in the 2020 RCPP, including NRCS Farm Bill and Partner programs:
- Conservation Easements: 6,200 acres
- New Conservation land: 2,300 acres
- Improved private lands conservation management: 2,400 acres
Notably, the 2020 RCPP requires monitoring and reporting of environmental, social, and economic outcomes. To this end, NFLT will spearhead projects specifically designed to quantify ecological “lift”, climate resiliency and social impacts. These include:
- Permanent Land Protection: How newly protected lands contribute to 1) habitat connectivity and forest integrity, 2) watershed health, and 3) landscape habitat for imperiled species (i.e. red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise).
- Degraded Plant Condition and Terrestrial Habitat: Direct measurements of habitat restoration (field measurements), and landscape changes from improved conservation practices.
- Climate resilience: Quantification of carbon sequestration using carbon credit industry models, and quantification of water yields related to conservation forest practices (i.e. forest management for stand improvements and prescribed burning).
- Benefits to military mission: Acres protected in military buffer zones, and benefits of imperiled species habitat improvements as they contribute to relieving military of regulatory restrictions.
- Economic and Social outcomes for landowners: Direct assessment of the value of land conservation in terms of impact on predicted future land values.
How will we achieve the land protection and conservation management goals?
- Synergy and compatibility of easement programs.
- Easement programs that will complement the fee conservation acquired through other programs.
- Linking NRCS land conservation easement programs with land management – a good investment in long term conservation.
- Enhanced landowner outreach and education.
- Land protection guided by the public-private O2O Partnership.
- Measuring outcomes (beyond dollars and acres) on the project and landscape scale
- Conservation practices complement the Working Lands for Wildlife NRCS initiatives.