Ann Arbor seeks $ 7.4 million to help protect land and water
ANN ARBOR, MI – Another $ 7.4 million in federal funding will go to land and water conservation organizations in southeast Michigan, officials said this week.
The City of Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt Program, administered by the Conservation Fund, led efforts to secure funding and acted as the lead partner among nine conservation groups that formed the Lake Erie Conservation Partnership.
Federal funding comes through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and is supplemented by local conservation funds. That equates to over $ 15 million to conserve farmland, protect water quality, and improve wildlife habitats over a five-year period.
“The Lake Erie Conservation Partnership will protect and preserve agricultural land that is critical to the overall health of Lake Erie waters while improving the productive soils that are vital to the resilience and security of the regional food system,” said the NRCS website has the potential to improve access to affordable farmland for aspiring and socially disadvantaged farmers.
Other partners in the Lake Erie Conservation Partnership include the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, Legacy Land Conservancy, Six Rivers Land Conservancy, Huron River Watershed Council, Washtenaw County Conservation District, and the townships of Scio, Ann Arbor, and Webster.
The partnership spans both the Huron and Raisin watersheds and aims to permanently protect 2,000 acres of land and support farmers in implementing systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats and increase climate resilience.
“We appreciate the leadership of NRCS and the support of the Michigan Congressional Delegation for this project and soil conservation in southeast Michigan,” said Christopher Taylor, Ann Arbor Mayor, in a statement.
“This award is a testament to the importance of turning a vision into reality – package by package, stream by stream,” added Remy Long, Greenbelt program manager.
“This vision began decades ago through grassroots efforts led by local conservationists. Today that vision has become a cohesive, vast, and thriving effort to ensure a future that encompasses protected and managed territories and waters in southeast Michigan. “
The fruits of Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt program can be seen in 53 farms after 15 years
The $ 7.4 million for the Ann Arbor-led partnership is among the total of $ 330 million recently awarded to 85 conservation partnership projects across the country.
Since 2000, local conservation partners have used $ 114 million to protect more than 18,000 acres of Washtenaw County’s land, including productive farmland and habitats that support carbon storage, water filtration, and biodiversity. But the county has lost over 223,000 acres of farmland since 1935, averaging over 2,600 acres a year.
“While this landscape impact continues, the Lake Erie Conservation Partnership will help preserve the remaining farmland and green infrastructure,” a city press release said. “These protected areas offer ongoing environmental and social benefits, including low-cost carbon storage at the landscape level and the creation of affordable farmland opportunities to support new and beginning farmers.”
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