ANN ARBOR – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service has awarded $7.4 million to land and water conservation organizations across Southeast Michigan.
The City of Ann Arbor Greenbelt Program acted as the lead partner through the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program to secure the funding for nine partner organizations.
The organizations have joined forces to establish the Lake Erie Conservation Partnership, an project that covers both the Huron and Raisin watersheds.
Local conservation funds will match the RCPP award, with the Lake Erie Conservation Partnership representing more than $15 million invested in water quality protection, wildlife habitat improvements and farmland preservation over the next five years.
The Lake Erie Conservation Partnership aims to collectively -- and permanently -- protect 2,000 acres of land, increase climate resilience and help support farmers to conserve soil and water resources.
“We appreciate NRCS’s leadership and the support of Michigan’s congressional delegation for this project and for land preservation in southeast Michigan,” Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said in a statement. “The Greenbelt program is emblematic of the city’s commitment to strategic partnerships and land preservation in the Ann Arbor area and beyond.”
Since 2000, conservation partners in Washtenaw County have protected more than 18,000 acres of land by utilizing $114 million.
“This award is a testament to the importance of seeing a vision through to reality — parcel by parcel, stream by stream,” Greenbelt Program Manager Remy Long said in a statement. “This vision started decades ago through grassroots efforts led by local champions of conservation.
“Today, that vision has become a cohesive, formidable and flourishing effort to guarantee a future that includes protected and stewarded lands and waters in southeast Michigan.”
According to a city of Ann Arbor release, since 1935, Washtenaw County has lost more than 223,000 acres of farmland -- about 7 acres every day.
The Lake Erie Conservation Partnership will work to preserve the remaining green infrastructure and farmland in the county.
“These protected lands create continuing environmental and social benefits, which include cost-effective landscape-level carbon storage and creating affordable farmland opportunities to support new and beginning farmers,” reads a city of Ann Arbor release.
Other Lake Erie Conservation Partnership partners include: Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission, Scio Township, Ann Arbor Township, Webster Township, Legacy Land Conservancy, Six Rivers Land Conservancy, Huron River Watershed Council, Washtenaw County Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).