I heard it best said on a conference call the other day that the NWTF is an organization dedicated to meeting our partners’ objectives. What he meant by that is that the NWTF excels at partnering with agencies, industry and others who have similar goals as ours, and through our own mission delivery, satisfy the objectives of all of the partners involved.
One such partnership is with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency with whom we have been partners for many years through our Making Tracks program and more recently in the National Forestry Initiative, a five-year cooperative agreement aimed at improving privately owned forest habitat on 350,000 acres across 24 states.
“Through the NFI partnership agreement, NRCS and NWTF are working together to foster greater stewardship of natural resources by helping forest landowners in a variety of areas across the country,” said Michael Mitchener, NWTF NFI coordinator. “Working out of NRCS field offices, 24 foresters in 23 states deliver technical and financial assistance through Farm Bill conservation programs administered by NRCS on private lands.”
These professionally trained foresters provide additional support for NRCS staff and landowners in developing forest management plans and advising on best management practices that benefit forest resources, wildlife and landowner objectives.
Their primary duties are to:
- Provide technical assistance to private landowners
- Conduct site visits with landowners interested in forestry management and/or NRCS financial assistance programs
- Aid with the application process for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Conservation Reserve Program
- Assist with creating forest management plans
- Follow NRCS standards and specifications for the forestry work to be completed
- Certify all completed work to ensure it meets the planned NRCS standards and specifications
- Help landowners monitor completed forestry practices
- Provide educational opportunities through landowner field days and educational resources
The NFI’s impact in just a year’s time is one example of how collaboration and focus of combined energies is the future of conservation delivery in the U.S.
For example, the NFI aligns with the USDA Forest Service’s Shared Stewardship philosophy of all hands, all lands, all brands working together to increase the scope and scale of forest conservation. Look at the NWTF and Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative in Colorado as a model of that philosophy.
“Initiatives of this scale require a lot of trust,” said Mark Hatfield, NWTF national director of conservation services. “Over many years, the NWTF has proven to the Forest Service, NRCS and other national partners that we will accomplish what we promise, and we will do it efficiently and thoroughly. There’s a deep trust that only time in the trenches, side-by-side, can build. And we have been at the front lines of conservation with these partners longer than any others.”
Since last fall, the NFI partnership has made significant inroads across the NWTF’s America’s Big Six of Wildlife Conservation focal regions, bridging the gap between public lands conservation and private lands. Nationwide, we have conserved or enhanced over 11,000 acres and influenced nearly 87,000.
“The initiative is on track to meet or even exceed its 350,000-acre goal,” Mitchener said. “Even through a pandemic, our team adapted and worked tirelessly to move the needle for the partnership and the NWTF’s mission.”