Better ways to combat invasive weeds, developing planning tools to sequester carbon in forests, creating pollinator habitat on irrigation pipeline corridors — these are just a few applications that will come to fruition in the coming years because of funding from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) via its Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program.

This year, NRCS Oregon has selected five recipients that will receive funding through the 2019 state-level CIG program, totaling $279,831 in investments. Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District was one, receiving $60,293 to create pollinator habitat along irrigation district pipeline corridors, said a press release. CIG funds stimulate the development of innovative approaches and technologies for conservation on farms, ranches and forests, said a press release. These grants can be awarded to individual agricultural producers, local and state governments, tribes, colleges and universities, and other groups.
CIG enables NRCS to work with other public and private entities to accelerate transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address pressing natural resource concerns, said a press release.     
“We think of CIG is a down payment on future conservation planning and implementation,” said Jay Gibbs, acting state conservationist for NRCS Oregon. “CIG proposals need to have a line-of-sight to the landowner. Our ultimate goal is to take an application developed through CIG and make it accessible on a broader scale, for example creating a new NRCS practice standard.”
About the HRSWCD pollinator habitat project, NRCS wrote, “This is a pilot project between local stakeholders and irrigation districts to increase pollinator habitat by reseeding invasive weed-covered irrigation pipeline corridors with native plants. Irrigation infrastructure modernization provides a unique opportunity to explore and implement cost-effective pollinator conservation efforts.
“Irrigation districts, ditch companies, and similar entities deliver water from rivers and streams through open canals, laterals, and ditches to farms, ranches, and orchards across the region. This infrastructure is often porous and up to 100 years old, decreasing water conveyance efficiency and creating management challenges. Responding to these challenges, irrigation districts have begun to replace their open canals, laterals, and ditches with buried, pressurized pipelines in order to conserve water, improve agricultural water supply reliability, and restore streamflow for fish and wildlife.
“Districts reseed newly-modernized pipeline corridors with vegetation and manage them to protect the integrity of the pipes. This project will leverage that existing corridor of vegetative cover by integrating pollinator-friendly plants and developing recommendations for broader use. The overarching goal is to create a methodology for pollinator habitat implementation and monitoring along irrigation infrastructure that can be scaled across Oregon and the western U.S.”
Other projects selected were to the Burns Paiute Tribe Natural Resources Department Wildlife Program, EcoTrust, Oregon State University and Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District.

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