USDA releases Klamath Basin funds, conservation report

WASHINGTON - Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has released an additional $7.3 million to assist producers in the Klamath Basin in Oregon and California. This funding is in addition to the $11.7 million released in January. The assistance is part of a $50 million fund for the Klamath Basin made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) authorized in the 2002 farm bill.

"Water in the Klamath Basin and throughout the West is critical for the survival of fish and wildlife and the sustainability of many industries," Veneman said. "The additional funds will help accelerate implementation of practical, common sense water conservation practices on the ground."

Eligible producers will receive financial and technical assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve the efficiency of irrigation systems and institute other measures that improve ground and surface water conservation. Conservation practices used will result in net savings in groundwater or surface water resources on the agricultural operation of the producer.

USDA also released a new NRCS report, "Partnership Accomplishments-Conservation in the Klamath Basin," that outlines conservation successes of local producers in the face of water shortages resulting from drought and the impacts of the Endangered Species Act. More than 2,700 private land managers have made significant improvements to conserve water, improve water quality and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the Klamath Basin since 2001.

"We commend the many private land managers in the Klamath Basin who recognize their role in the watershed and are doing their part to free up water supplies for other users, and for fish and wildlife," said Veneman. "The Klamath Basin supports a diverse economy and that everyone must work together to sustain both the basin ecosystem and the local economy."

Local conservation districts and NRCS, in cooperation with private land managers, have developed conservation plans on nearly 67,000 acres of land in the basin. These plans address natural resource concerns, including conserving water and managing nutrients, pests and invasive plant species.

This conservation work has resulted in the establishment of over 2,200 acres of wetland habitat, over 13,000 acres of wildlife habitat, nearly 2,900 acres of fish and other aquatic habitat, and the conservation of over 6,700 acre-feet of water on-farm in the Klamath Basin. An acre-foot is the amount of water it would take to fill one acre of land one foot deep.

USDA, working with farmers, ranchers and local conservation districts, will continue to play a critical role in the watershed by delivering technical and financial assistance needed to conserve and enhance natural resources in the Klamath Basin.

The additional funds include $2.5 million in financial assistance and $833,000 for technical assistance for California and $3 million in financial assistance and $1.83 million in technical assistance for Oregon.

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