Kansas landowners can still apply for part of the $200,000 available for 2012 woodland improvement plans through USDA’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI).
The application deadline for 2012 funding is April 6.
Until then, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offices housed in Kansas’ statewide network of county Farm Service Centers can help landowners start their application. And, through its district foresters, the Kansas Forest Service can help landowners complete the technical parts of the application process, including the project plans.
A linked map of Kansas’ Farm Service Centers is available here.
Contact data for the KFS’s district foresters is available here.
“Getting in on this year’s funds could be well worth the time and effort,” said Bob Atchison, rural forestry coordinator for the Kansas Forest Service.
Forest-stand improvement payments are higher this year, he explained. Funds also are available for renovating and planting windbreaks and trees adjacent to streams or rivers.
“No one knows what Congress will do to next year’s budget. But, with the addition of the CCPI, 2012’s forestry funding is about twice the size it was just five years ago,” Atchison said. “That’s a blessing for Kansas. Statewide, our needs are becoming critical, in terms of our having healthy, mature trees in place.
“We need those trees to preserve our soil resources. We need them to protect our surface water supplies from sedimentation and from the brew of pollutants that runoff can carry. Mature trees are also the basis for Kansas agro-forestry income, and they provide money-saving, natural protection for our homes, roads, crops and livestock.”
The “vehicle” used to distribute CCPI funds for Kansans’ conservation-forestry projects is called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for Forestland Health.
Applicants for the forestland funds are exempt, however, from the usual EQIP requirement to produce an annual minimum $1,000 in agricultural income. Tenants can apply for the forestry funds, too, if they secure their landowner’s written support.
Atchison said the forestland program is unique to the northern High Plains states. Some years back, Kansas, Nebraska and the two Dakotas partnered in asking USDA-NRCS to back their long-term vision for Great Plains forestry through the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI).
Last year, Congress indicated plans to appropriate more than $4 million dollars toward the four-state initiative over the next five years.
“Whether that pans out may depend on the 2012 elections. But, the Plains are one of the clearest examples of how everyone benefits from conservation efforts,” Atchison said. “After all, if the farmer with riverside property can’t afford to install or maintain quality riparian plantings, tons of his land could end up downstream in the reservoir – shortening that lake’s life as a public water supply.”
2012 Payments, Costs
The four-state initiative’s payment rates can vary from place to place. Each state determines its own basis for EQIP forestry funding – the state’s average cost per improvement.
In Kansas, EQIP can pay 2012 participants up to $292 an acre to remove poor quality trees, the forester said. Or, the program can pay up to $720 per acre for heavy equipment to remove larger, expanding stands of Osage orange, honeylocust, Asian bush honeysuckle or other invasive species.
“If landowners then want to bring their forest stand up to proper stocking levels, the program can cover the cost of planting higher quality trees, including oaks and black walnuts,” Atchison said. “Project plans can be ambitious enough to require more than one funding year to complete.”
Forestry EQIP is also for owners whose land includes stream or river banks. It can help them to prepare for, plant, and manage riparian trees that stabilize those banks and filter runoff. As part of a riparian project, landowners can receive $1.49 for each seedling planted, or they can qualify for $1,215 an acre to plant thousands of acorns and/or walnuts.
Renovating or restarting windbreaks is one of the program’s more popular options, Atchison said. Eligible sites include the shelterbelts that protect livestock or field crops. EQIP pays 98 cents per lineal (ground-measured) foot to remove rows of old, ailing and dead trees. The program can cover the majority of costs to plant new tree rows, apply weed barrier fabric/mulch, or dedicate a micro-drip irrigation system.
“This is a voluntary program, but it’s also competitive,” he said. “In general, the more a plan addresses resource concerns that sustain woodland health, promote water quality and conserve soil, the better its chances for funding. Your district forester can probably give you an idea about the kinds of plans that have been doing well recently.
“Fortunately, inviting a district forester to your place and working with that forester to complete your plan will cost you nothing. In my experience, landowners who complete the NRCS ‘Self-Assessment Worksheet for Forestland’ find that’s another free activity that helps their application process along,” Atchison said.
Even if applicants happen to miss this year’s April 6 deadline, their work won’t be a waste of time, Atchison said. Doing so will simply put their project proposal in line to apply for 2013 funding.
Further information about the CCPI forestry initiative is available by calling Kansas NRCS at (785) 823-4500 or by contacting Atchison at (785)532-3310 or e-mail Atchison@ksu.edu.