USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor, and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird announced a new partnership focused on conserving and restoring the Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters as part of President Obama's Resilient Lands and Waters initiative.
In the next two years, the USDA's Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest $130 million in the partnership, which also includes the Interior Department, the State of California, non-profits, and private landowners.
In total, the partnership will yield a minimum investment of $210 million by all partners.
The Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters provides 25 million Californians with drinking water and much of the water for irrigated agriculture in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.
In addition to the partnership, USDA is announcing that $13.7 million is available to California producers and ranchers through NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
About $6 million remains available to drought-stricken communities through Rural Development's Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants, making nearly $20 million available to drought-affected communities.
Secretary Vilsack said, “As several years of historic drought continue to plague parts of the Western United States, there is a significant opportunity and responsibility across federal, state and private lands to protect and improve the landscapes that generate our most critical water supplies.”
“Healthy forests and meadows play a key role in ensuring water quality, yield and reliability throughout the year. Looking beyond this particular drought, resources announced today will help us add resiliency to natural resource systems to cope with recurring drought and changing climate patterns."
USDA says the federal partnership dovetails with Gov. Jerry Brown’s California Water Action Plan of short- and long-term goals to put California on a path to more resilient and reliable water systems and healthy ecosystems over the next five years.
Over the next year, California will commit as much as $81 million in ecosystem restoration in the Sierra Nevada.