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Assistance to Forest and Woodland Owners

Assistance to Forest and Woodland Owners

2008 Farm Bill Conservation Programs

Heavy brush occupying forest land may be the result of a previous catastrophic fire.
Heavy brush occupying forest land may be the result of a previous catastrophic fire.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a federal agency that emphasizes voluntary, science-based assistance to help private forest landowners. The NRCS promotes and informs private forest landowners about forestry practices that can improve growth, reduce risk, and improve forest health. Many of these practices can be cost-shared through Farm Bill programs.


The NRCS works with forest and woodland owners to develop a conservation plan customized to meet the owner’s objectives for their land. The conservation plan will address resource concerns and propose improvements that can be voluntarily implemented on the landscape. Conservation planning provides direction to forest and woodland owners to achieve goals and improve natural resources. Landowners with a conservation plan may receive priority for Farm Bill funding.


Forest health is a very broad term. Many forests are both healthy and productive. However, a number of different concerns have been identified as major forestry problems in the west. These include fire and fuels, invasion of non-native and native pests, loss of biodiversity, air pollution, and degraded riparian forests.

Many forest stands have too many trees per acre (overstocked) or contain a disproportionate amount of shrubs in the understory. This competition for light, nutrients, and water leaves forests extremely susceptible to disease and insect damage, increases the risk of catastrophic fire, reduces productivity, and provides poor quality wildlife habitat as well as limited recreational opportunities. Other forests, for a number of reasons, have too few trees.


Private, non-industrial forests and woodlands make up about 14% of California. Many of these acres are overstocked and at risk of wildfire damage. California and many of our neighboring states have experienced abnormally dry conditions. These adverse conditions have fueled severe wildfires that are challenging our natural resources.

Fire, a natural phenomenon, is a key to maintaining natural processes of most California ecosystems. Previously the majority of fires were of low intensity at a fairly short return interval that prevented the accumulation of large amounts of fuel. Under natural conditions, the more destructive wildfires of today were an exception and not the rule.

Destructive fires contribute to accelerated erosion/sedimentation, health hazards from smoke, property damage, lack of suitable habitat for wildlife, reduction of water quality/quantity, increased risk of flooding, and reduced recreational opportunities.

Present and past management activities have impacted a number of plant and animal species. Proper management of habitat provides shelter, cover, food, and transportation corridors for wild animals that inhabit an area during a portion of their life cycle.


NRCS conservationists can assist landowners with management decisions as well as providing technical and financial cost share to assist landowners in improving forest health and reducing the impacts of catastrophic wildfires.

In almost 70 years of assisting forest and woodland landowners, NRCS has assembled a body of technical standards to help producers address a large number of natural resource concerns.

Without effective management, opportunistic understory plants compete with trees for nutrients and light.
Without effective management, opportunistic understory plants compete with trees for nutrients and light.

How To Apply

Persons interested in participating in Farm Bill programs should contact their local NRCS field office. Applications may be submitted at any time during the year. Eligible projects will be evaluated, prioritized and selected for funding as budget allocations permit. Submitting an application does not obligate the landowner or the NRCS to the enrollment of property or any future expenditure of funds.

For more information on EQIP and other Farm Bill programs please visit the NRCS California website at:

Forest conservation activities, such as those found below, exemplify the type of practices for which NRCS provides technical and financial assistance.

Typical NRCS Conservation Forestry Activities

Treating areas to improve the site conditions for the successful establishment of trees.

Establishing trees by planting seedlings or cuttings, direct seeding, or natural regeneration.

Treating areas made to improve the composition, structure, condition, health, and growth of even- or uneven-aged stands. Smaller trees in an immature stand may be removed to provide adequate growing space, accelerate diameter growth, and improve the form of the remaining trees.

Reducing the numbers of shrubs in the understory to an acceptable level to reduce the competition between trees and shrubs. As the competition increases, plants slow in growth, become weakened, and prematurely die from insects and disease.

Removing the lower limbs from trees to improve the appearance, the quality of the wood, and to reduce fire and/or ladder fuel hazards.

Treating woody plant residues created during forestry activities to reduce hazardous fuels, the risk of harmful insects and disease while maintaining air quality, improving access to forage for grazing and browsing animals, and improving soil organic matter.

Creating an area where the vegetation and debris have been reduced and/or modified to control or reduce the risk of the spread of fire.

Providing and managing upland habitats and connectivity within the landscape for wildlife through treatment of the habitat. This enables movement, or provides shelter, cover, and food to sustain wild animals that inhabit the area during a portion of their life cycle.


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