Alachua Conservation Trust’s Surface to Springs Project Awarded $7.1 Million by USDA

Lower Santa Fe River. Photo by Alison Blakeslee.

Lower Santa Fe River. Photo by Alison Blakeslee.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced this week that the federal agency will invest $330 million in 85 locally driven public-private partnerships through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) was among those selected and will receive $7.1 million for its Surface to Springs Project.

The Surface to Springs RCPP Project focuses on the Suwannee and Santa Fe watersheds and will bring federal resources to a region that has five state designated Springs Priority Focus Areas. ACT and its partners will work with private property owners to protect working farms, timberlands, and natural areas through private land protection efforts; provide increased technical assistance to landowners while focusing on protecting the region’s springs and aquifer; and connect landowners with the tools and resources to move forward with best management, enhancement, and restoration strategies to benefit the region.

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnerships working at their best,” said Juan Hernandez, NRCS State Conservationist in Florida. “These new projects will harness the power of partnerships to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”

Lower Santa Fe River. Photo by Alison Blakeslee.

Lower Santa Fe River. Photo by Alison Blakeslee.

ACT’s project proposes permanently protecting 9,000 acres of private lands and improving and enhancing wildlife habitat and water quality and quantity on 2,000 acres of land over the next five years. Together with its project partners, ACT will use innovative, sophisticated targeting and modeling approaches to prioritize lands for project activities and to estimate the conservation and economic outcomes.

“The Surface to Springs RCPP allows ACT and our partners to catalyze on the existing work we have been doing in this region that is so vital to our springs and groundwater and leverage local and state funding with federal dollars to help farmers protect their rural and agricultural lands,” said ACT executive director Tom Kay. “Protecting land is crucial to protecting water resources. By working together, we can be more effective in achieving positive conservation outcomes.”

Telford Spring on Suwannee River. Photo by Alison Blakeslee.

Telford Spring on Suwannee River. Photo by Alison Blakeslee.

In addition to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, ACT will work with 13 public, private, non-profit, and educational partners to accomplish the conservation goals of the RCPP, including the Suwannee River Water Management District, Alachua County, Florida Forestry Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Suwannee River Partnership, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation, Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services, Florida Forest Service, Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, University of Florida (UF) Ecohydrology Lab, and UF Watershed Ecology Lab.

“NRCS staff is an incredible partner and resource to protect rural lands with Farm Bill programs in Florida,” said ACT statewide land acquisition specialist, Erica Hernandez. “ACT is fortunate to have this partnership mechanism to help NRCS bring these program opportunities to our local farmers and landowners.”

Surface to Springs RCPP Project Area.

Surface to Springs RCPP Project Area.

For more information about the Surface to Springs RCPP Project, call (352) 373-1078 or email [email protected]


Banner image: Telford Spring on the Suwannee River by Alison Blakeslee.