USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced funding to help protect the Great Lakes as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). NRCS will provide financial and technical resources to improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the region. "The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is taking important steps to provide clean water and a healthier environment for the Americans who rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water," said Acting State Conservationist Edward Henry." NRCS in New York is focusing on the Lake Ontario, and St. Lawrence River watersheds to conserve and restore our natural resources, strengthen our communities, and leave a healthier planet for future generations." The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the earth's fresh water and provide drinking water for more than 40 million people. Funding will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible landowners and farmers for conservation work in its priority watersheds. Priority watersheds are those with the most vulnerability and greatest need for protection of water quality, restoration of wildlife habitat, and where programs can be targeted first to quickly meet the goals of protecting watersheds. To facilitate this process, NRCS will conduct a sign-up for GLRI funding from June 1 to July 1, 2011. GLRI funds will be distributed using existing conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), and conservation technical assistance. For more information on GLRI online visit . For sign-up details or additional conservation program information contact your local USDA NRCS office or visit . 06.01.2011