NWTF and NRCS Join Forces in NY Again - Cooperative Agreement to Assist with EQIP Forestry Initiative
Doug Little, NWTF Regional Biologist
The National Wild Turkey Federation has been a leader in upland habitat management. Our efforts to enhance habitat in New York State are increasing with leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. I am pleased to announce a new partnership with US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in New York. In early summer 2011 NWTF and NRCS signed a Contribution Agreement that paves the way for NWTF staff to assist with delivery of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Forestry (EQIP) New York/New England Forestry Initiative. The Initiative was made possible by the Strategic Watershed Action Team for the NRCS funding contribution.
This is the second such Agreement in NY between NRCS and NWTF. You may recall in the last issue of Turkey Tales I announced that NWTF is assisting NRCS staff with delivery of the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. NY is the only state where NWTF and NRCS have two simultaneous Contribution Agreements which has quickly put NWTF efforts in NY to the front of the pack in terms of private land upland habitat enhancement.
You might ask why we are so concerned with private lands management. The reality is most of our open space in NY state is private land. And if we are to have a significant impact on wildlife habitats we cannot ignore the private landowners. It is vitally important to work with private landowners throughout NY state to educate landowners about active habitat management and the programs available to assist them in their efforts.
Information below has been compiled and slightly modified from the following NRCS and NYS DEC websites:
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – Forestry Initiative
The New York Environmental Quality Incentives Program - Forestry Initiative is an opportunity for private forestland owners in New York to implement conservation and management practices that will improve health and productivity of their forests and prevent soil erosion. The Forestry Initiative is a subset of the New York Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
New York Environmental Quality Incentives Program is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to eligible landowners who are willing to address priority environmental issues by implementing conservation practices. The New York Environmental Quality Incentives Program Forestry Initiative is a partnership effort between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Division of Land and Forests, and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
Owners of non-industrial private forest land or land capable of growing trees may apply for the program. For Forest Management practices, the landowner must have a Forest Stewardship Plan developed or approved by the DEC. Eligible land is private non-industrial forestland. Applicants must meet eligibility for Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) certification and be in compliance with the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985 as amended.
EQIP Forestry applications address resource concerns in the Forest Management focus area. Technical assistance for Forest Management applications will be provided by DEC and in some areas the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Eligible practices include but are not limited to Forest Health Thinning, Crop Tree Release, and Forest Trails and
How are payment levels determined?
Each eligible conservation practice under the EQIP Forest Management focus area has a Practice Payment Rate (PPR) which is a fixed amount based on a percentage of the state average cost of a typical installation of that practice.
What are the contract obligations?
EQIP-Forest Management contracts are limited to a maximum of three years in length. At least one practice from the contract must be started in the first twelve months, and no practices may be scheduled in the last year of the contract. Participants can be held financially liable for unfulfilled contracts.
What do I do next?
After applying at your local NRCS office, an NRCS conservationist, NWTF Regional Biologist, or DEC Forester will help you finalize a conservation plan, including selecting conservation practices. Your application will be ranked based upon national and state ranking criteria. Applications will be selected for funding based on these criteria. You will be notified once funding decisions have been made.
It is also a good idea to confirm that your Forest Stewardship plan is up-to-date and accurate. Consider whether the entire area you would like to have considered for the EQIP Forestry program is covered by your existing Forest Stewardship plan.
Consider the Cooperating Forester Program mentioned earlier. Reaching out to a Cooperating Forester has many benefits and could help you make the appropriate land management decisions.
How can I find out more?
Contact your local USDA-NRCS office, your local DEC Forester, or NWTF Regional Biologist, Doug Little at
email@example.com. I will be glad to mail hard copies of information, including the list of Cooperating Foresters mentioned in this article.
Does this obligate me to open my land for hunting or other recreation?
Absolutely not. I am asked this question frequently as I promote these programs to landowners.
Landowners that enroll in NRCS programs are in no way obligated to open their lands for hunting access.
Please consider looking into the EQIP Forestry Initiative as a means to assist with technical advice and financial assistance in your forest stand improvement projects, particularly if you already have a Forest Stewardship Plan.
The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.