American Farmland Trust's Pioneers in Conservation Program

American Farmland Trust

The Pioneers in Conservation program offers grants to farmers and ranchers to undertake habitat restoration projects on their land.  The projects funded include fencing and replanting of riparian buffers, replacement of undersized culverts, and other small-scale habitat projects, many of which have benefits for carbon sequestration as well as for salmon and other fish and wildlife species.

The original Pioneers program operated throughout Washington State from 2005 to 2009 with funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the Washington State Conservation Commission. A total of 37 projects were funded in the four-year period before state budget cuts suspended the program. American Farmland Trust revived the Pioneers program in 2011 with funding from NFWF. The new version is different in two critical ways. First, it concentrates grants in reaches that are top ecological priorities identified in consultation with government and tribal scientists. Second, the Pioneers program now seeks to align other funding sources to concentrate the impact in these key areas.

This approach has had encouraging results in its first big test in the Snoqualmie River watershed, the first of three pilot areas for the Pioneers program in 2012. American Farmland Trust identified priority reaches for salmon recovery in the Snoqualmie, conducted an extensive outreach effort to farmers in the area, coordinated other funders, and helped farmers apply for funding. The result: a $390,000 restoration program that will restore riparian buffers on more than three miles of crucial salmon-bearing streams.

Many of the conservation and restoration actions we are pursuing on farms result in improvements to soil fertility and vegetation that have direct benefits to storing carbon on farms and ranches.  The Trust is excited to explore opportunities to engage farmers and ranchers in solutions to climate change that promote the long-term viability of the agricultural industry through the Northwest Biocarbon Initiative.

Learn more about the Pioneers in Conservation Program.

Meet Dennis Canty, Northwest Regional Director of American Farmland Trust and member of the NBI Advisory Committee.