Ag producers will help improve health of the Gulf
TEMPLE -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Salvador Salinas announced in a Dec. 16 press release an opportunity for Texas farmers and ranchers in the Lower San Antonio and Guadalupe River basins to help improve the ecological health of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Texas Gulf of Mexico Initiative focuses on providing technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers in targeted watersheds to help them implement conservation practices on their land to reduce erosion or runoff, which carries soil and nutrients into waterways that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The initiative teams USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service with partners in five Gulf States -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas -- to help agricultural producers improve water quality, increase water conservation, and protect wildlife and fish habitat.
The initiative will provide $50 million in 16 priority watersheds in seven major river basins in five states over the next three years through a combination of Natural Resources Conservation Service programs. In Texas, these programs include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Grassland Reserve Program, and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.
Identified in the final strategy released by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, reducing the flow of nutrients was one of the most pressing environmental concerns in the Gulf. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which the Natural Resources Conservation Service serves on, was created in 2010 and is a collaborative effort of local, state, and federal government, scientists, academia, and the five states, working in partnership to develop and implement strategies to improve the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.
In Texas, The Gulf of Mexico Initiative project areas includes the Kuy Creek-Guadalupe River, the Guadalupe River-South Guadalupe River, and the Hynes Bay-San Antonio Bay watersheds that include the counties of Refugio, Calhoun, Victoria, and Aransas.
Preliminary partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas General Land Office, the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board, the San Antonio River Authority, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Other local partners are welcomed and will continue to be sought to provide educational and technical assistance, give biological and habitat recommendations, and share data as well as monitoring assistance.
For a complete list of projects or more information about the Gulf of Mexico Initiative or the technical and financial assistance provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, visit http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.