Funding available for forest land conservation

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, October 23, 2013

RICHMOND—Autumn is a busy time for farmers.

Harvests, falling leaves and changing clocks mark the season. Conservationists are busy too, now that they are back on the job helping landowners with forest land planning and conservation. Whether you are interested in developing a plan or taking steps to improve the productivity of your land, you can now sign up for funding to help you meet your goals.

The Virginia Department of Forestry and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service can offer expert advice and financial assistance to help you better manage your property. NRCS in Virginia is back open for business and accepting applications for forestry practices under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to help landowners solve natural resource problems on their crop, pasture, and forestland.

A Forest Management Plan is usually the first step in this process.

The plan is personalized to the landowner’s property, goals and objectives. It outlines recommended conservation practices and establishes an implementation schedule. Funding is available to help landowners develop this plan using a technical service provider. NRCS has lists of natural resource specialists who can provide these services. VDOF foresters are another resource to help landowners manage their land for specific purposes such as recreation or wildlife habitat.

Funding is also available for implementing forest management practices for establishing or reestablishing forestland; stabilizing logging roads, trails and landings; and improving existing privately-owned, non-commercial forestland.

NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at specific times. Interested landowners are encouraged to apply before Friday, Nov. 15th to be eligible for limited funding. Specific sign-up deadlines will be announced soon for other EQIP funding opportunities related to cropland, grazing land, and animal waste management practices.

Virginia NRCS has 2,900 existing EQIP contracts with landowners. These farmers are encouraged to follow up with their local NRCS staff to discuss their existing plans and contracts and to schedule the implementation of practices for the coming year.

To learn more about the program and eligibility requirements, interested farmers and forest landowners should contact their local VDOF Forester or the NRCS Service Center.