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Partnership Creates Funding Opportunities

Partnership Creates Funding Opportunities

by Bob Atchison
Kansas Forest Service
Manhattan, Kansas

The 2010 Kansas Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy has identified sustaining and protecting forest and agroforestry ecosystems and water quality and quantity as two of the most important forest-related natural resource concerns in Kansas. This is supported by natural resource inventories that suggest nearly half of the state’s 43,436 miles of windbreaks are in poor condition; 46 percent of Kansas woodlands and forests are classified as “cull” having no merchantable value; and sedimentation from streambank erosion and other sources has reduced the storage capacity and life span of many reservoirs by 50 to 100 years creating potential water supply shortages.

Fortunately a new and unique partnership has been created between the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and state forestry agencies in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas through a grant from the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) to address these resource concerns. An initiative of the 2008 USDA Farm Bill, CCPI has the potential to bring an additional $800,000 to Kansas for riparian tree planting, windbreak renovation, and forest stand improvement projects in the next four years. CCPI works through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) providing for forest and agroforestry projects.

Forest, woodlands, windbreaks, cropland, and grassland all have the potential to qualify for the program if a “resource concern” is identified. Primary resource concerns for the program are the health and condition of trees in windbreaks, woodlands and forests; soil erosion of streambanks; and water quality issues associated with excessive sediment. Specific examples might include old windbreaks with gaps and dead trees or shrubs; streambank erosion where additional tree planting can provide long-term reduction in soil loss; and forests or woodlands that are either over crowded (need thinning) or would benefit from additional tree planting, or contain a high percentage of invasive or undesirable trees.

Private landowners statewide are eligible to sign up for the program if they meet the agricultural producer requirements for EQIP. Forestry and windbreak applicants are exempt from the requirement that a minimum of $1,000 of agricultural products must be produced or sold annually by applicants.

Applications for EQIP are accepted continuously at NRCS offices located in USDA Service Centers. Applications are batched after a set cutoff date for funding. Locations and contact information for USDA Service Centers may be found at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. Also available at the Web site is an EQIP Self-Assessment Worksheet for Forestland Health. Completing the worksheet prior to applying may improve chances for funding. Payment rates are available at the Web site.

NRCS will refer EQIP applicants to a Kansas Forest Service district forester who will schedule a site visit with the applicant and develop a management plan to guide the project. NRCS will then rank and prioritize the application based on criteria developed for Forestland Health.

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