OCEAN Receives $500,000 NRCS Grant Award

by Cathy McQueeney

This month, the Oregon Conservation and Assistance Network (OCEAN) received a $500,000 grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).  This award allows OCEAN to aid Conservation Districts in delivering Farm Bill program activities in their communities through coordination and training.  NRCS benefits by OCEAN facilitating more efficient partnerships with Conservation Districts in Farm Bill Conservation Program delivery.

According to OCEAN president, Jeremy Baker, this grant will deepen and enhance its relationship with NRCS and will increase the number of on-the-ground conservation projects here in Oregon.  “OCEAN has demonstrated considerable experience and expertise in delivering quality educational opportunities to conservation staff here in Oregon,” says Baker.  “Our organization has a strong history of providing the most comprehensive professional development for conservation district employees and other valued conservation partners in our region.”

The funding from this grant will be used for a number of deliverables, including:

  • Coordinate and track Conservation Planning Certification for District and Watershed Council employees
  • Help District and Watershed Council staff manage their Job Approval Authority (JAA) by providing tracking and training
  • Provide a yearly, state-wide Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) training that focuses on both the programmatic and technical requirements
  • Facilitate access to the USDA-NRCS information technology system including eAuthentication and LincPass card access and yearly Information Security Awareness training
  • Advise Districts who hold contracts with NRCS in compliance with policy, regulations, and procedures, including how to navigate federal grant management systems
  • Increase public and partner awareness of successful collaborations between NRCS and Conservation Districts/Watershed Councils by researching and writing collaboration success stories that highlight locally-led Farm Bill conservation projects

OCEAN is currently accepting applications for an Executive Coordinator who will oversee the implementation of these grant deliverables.  An Assistant Coordinator position is expected to be filled as these services become available to ensure Districts’ needs are effectively met.

OCEAN is a membership organization dedicated to providing capacity building, education, and professional development opportunities to District and Watershed Council employees and will continue to grow to meet future educational demands.

The OCEAN board of directors encourages all District staff to become members in the organization, help maintain their District’s information in the OCEAN District Directory, and to provide feedback that reflects the needs and interests of conservation employees in their region.