New Jersey Audubon, through its Healthy Land and Waters Grants program, is now accepting applications for funding projects that will improve soil health and protect water quality on farmland in southern New Jersey. Over $200,000 in competitive funding is available to agricultural producers and large landowners to support conservation projects in priority areas of Salem and Cumberland county.
Grants will be awarded for applications that protect their local watershed through the implementation of conservation practices on agricultural land. Project proposals affecting 100-500 acres in scope are encouraged to apply. Land within designated priority areas that improve soil structure, reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, and prevent contamination of local waterways will be eligible and competitive for cost-share assistance.
The conservation practices implemented with support from the Healthy Land and Waters Grant program provide benefits to the farmer as well as the land. A reduced or no-tillage system and the use of cover crops will protect soils, building nutrients and reducing erosion, all while increasing water infiltration. Enhancement of borders around streams and wetlands act as a buffer for land use activities, reducing the impact of runoff and soil erosion on water quality. Establishment of pollinator habitat in provide essential food and shelter for native butterflies and bees, which in turn assist with crop pollination and provide beneficial insect habitat. Eligible practices are not limited to those listed above. New Jersey Audubon will work with the applicant to create a plan that meets the needs of the land and farming operation.
Applications will be reviewed and prioritized by using a set of criteria that emphasize location, project size, conservation practices used, and other criteria. Applications received by April 15, 2018, will be evaluated and given priority for funding. Applications will continue to be accepted until all funds are spent.
Smaller projects within Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties may still qualify for financial and technical assistance when meeting the project goals discussed above. These working lands interested in financial assistance are also subject to geographic boundaries within the watershed. Interested applicants may call to determine eligibility. Others will qualify for technical assistance in project planning.
Funding is being made available thanks to the support of the William Penn Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Water Quality Restoration Grants.
With this funding, New Jersey Audubon has worked with producers to apply an additional 1,500 acres of soil and water conserving practices over the past three years.
In some cases, partner organizations may be able to provide additional support through both financial and technical assistance. Many previous projects have received funding from both the NJ Audubon program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Together these programs can offset the costs associated with conservation practice implementation.