You Central and Southern guys should like this one. $207 MILLION CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP TO PROTECT SCIOTO RIVER WATERSHED U.S. Dept. of Agriculture joins State of Ohio to offer conservation incentives in 31 counties COLUMBUS, OH - A $207 million conservation partnership to protect the drinking water and other natural resources of the Scioto River watershed by reducing soil erosion and runoff pollution was announced today by Deputy U.S. Agriculture (USDA) Secretary James Moseley and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Sam Speck. The federal/state agreement establishes the Scioto River Watershed Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), offering incentives for farmers and other landowners to plant trees and establish conservation buffers and wetlands on 70,000 acres alongside the 231-mile long Scioto River and its 3,000 miles of tributary streams. The program area includes all or part of 31 central and southern Ohio counties, an area of approximately 6,300 square miles and home to nearly 2 million Ohioans. By giving landowners incentives to create waterway buffers and commit to other voluntary conservation practices, we will help them to significantly reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat in this critically important watershed, Speck said. At the same time we will ensure an extra measure of protection for drinking water sources serving Columbus and other Ohio communities. USDA is committing a 15-year, $151 million investment in the program. The State of Ohio and local partners will provide an additional $56 million in cash and in-kind contributions over the next 10 years. These funds will be used to establish 70,000 acres of long-term and permanent conservation practices on farmland in the watershed, including riparian buffers, filter strips, tree plantings and wetlands restoration. Speck said benefits of the program also would be felt far beyond Ohio. These conservation practices also will reduce nutrients and sediment that flow from the Scioto River watershed into the Ohio/Mississippi basin and contribute to environmental problems as far away as the Gulf of Mexico, he said. Deputy USDA Secretary Moseley praised Ohios long history of leadership in soil and water conservation, noting that Ohio is one of only two states to have multiple CREP programs underway. The Scioto River Watershed CREP is a cooperative project of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and local soil and water conservation districts in the Scioto River watershed. Major partners are the City of Columbus, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and the Ohio State University Extension. In addition to reducing soil sediment, nutrients and pesticides in surface water sources, CREP conservation practices also promote aquifer recharge, floodplain protection and enhanced wildlife habitat. Lands eligible for enrollment include croplands with a cropping history in four of the previous six years and marginal pasturelands along streams, watercourses and certain upland areas. Counties lying entirely within the Scioto River watershed are: Delaware, Fayette, Franklin, Madison, Pickaway, Ross and Union. Counties that are partially within the watershed are: Adams, Allen, Auglaize, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Crawford, Fairfield, Greene, Hardin, Highland, Hocking, Jackson, Knox, Licking, Logan, Marion, Morrow, Perry, Pike, Richland, Scioto, Vinton and Wyandot. Major tributaries of the Scioto River include the Olentangy River, Big and Little Darby creeks, Paint Creek, Deer Creek, Big Walnut Creek and Salt Creek. Farmers and others owning land adjacent to waterways in the Scioto River watershed are encouraged to contact their local soil and water conservation district for program information. Additional information is available by contacting the ODNR Division of Soil & Water Conservation at 614-265-6610, or online at ohiodnr.com.