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HFRP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q:    What is the Healthy Forests Reserve Program?

A:    The Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) is a voluntary program established for the purpose of restoring and enhancing forests ecosystems to:

  • Promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, including the Indiana Bat and aquatic species in the target area;
  • Improve biodiversity; and
  • Enhance carbon sequestration.

Q:    What are the eligibility requirements?

A:    To be eligible for enrollment, land must be private land which will:

  • Restore, enhance, or measurably increase the likelihood of recovery of threatened and endangered species;
  • Improve biodiversity; and
  • Increase carbon sequestration.

Q:    What areas of Kentucky may be eligible for HFRP?

A:    Eligible areas include parts of the Upper Cumberland River Watershed.  Eligible land must be located within those parts of the Upper Cumberland River, Rockcastle River, South Fork of Cumberland River, Upper Buck Creek, and Lower Buck Creek that lie within Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Letcher, Lincoln, McCreary, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Wayne and Whitley Counties. 

Q:   What are the listed threatened and endangered species targeted for habitat and population recovery activities in Kentucky?

A:    In Kentucky, HFRP will focus on habitat protection for the threatened and endangered Indiana Bat, Palezone Shiner, Blackside Dace, Cumberland Darter and five mussel species. 

Q:    How do landowners apply for the program?

A:    Landowners may obtain HFRP application packets at their local USDA-NRCS Service Center.  Applications will be evaluated periodically.  

Q:    Do the threatened and endangered species need to be present to qualify?

A:    No, but applications regarding land where there are known populations of threatened and endangered species, as verified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), will be given the highest priority. 

Q:    What are HFRP’s enrollment options?

A:    Kentucky’s HFRP offers two enrollment options:

  1. A 30-year easement, for which the landowner will receive 75 percent of the easement compensation value of the enrolled land plus 75 percent of the approved conservation practices.

  2. Permanent easements for which landowners will receive 100 percent of the easement compensation value of the enrolled land plus 100 percent of the cost of the approved conservation practices.

Q:    What is required of the landowner under the HFRP program?

A:    When a landowner enrolls in one of the HFRP easement options, a landowner shall grant an easement to the United States.  The easement shall require:

  •  That the easement area is maintained in accordance with HFRP goals and objectives for duration of the term of the easement including the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management of habitat for listed species within a forest ecosystem’s functions and values.

  • For the duration of its term, the easement shall require, at a minimum, that the landowner and the landowner’s heirs, successors and assigns shall cooperate in the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management of the land in accordance with the easement and with the terms of the HFRP restoration plan.

  • The easement shall grant to the United States through the NRCS:

  1. A right of access to the easement area;
  2. The rights, title, and interest to the easement area as specified in the conservation easement deed; and
  3. The right to perform restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management activities on the easement area.
  • The landowner shall convey title to the easement which is acceptable to NRCS.

  •  The landowner shall warrant that the easement granted to the United States is superior to the rights of all owners, except for exceptions to the title which are deemed acceptable by NRCS.

Q:    How are HFRP easement payments provided to the landowner?

A:   A participant may request a lump sum payment or annual payment (up to 10 years). 

Q:    Who controls access to lands enrolled in a HFRP easement?

A:    The landowner retains complete control of access.  However, NRCS retains access rights to the easement area for the purpose of enforcing the easement deed and carrying out restoration, protection, enhancement, management and monitoring activities. 

Q:    How is the easement value determined?

A:    The easement value is the difference in the appraised fair market value of the parcel before the easement is in place and the appraised fair market value of the parcel after the easement is in place, as determined by a professional appraisal.  

Q:    How are applications selected for HFRP?

A:    Applications are selected according to ranking and evaluation criteria developed at the state level within broad national guidelines.  

Q:    What conservation practices are eligible for financial assistance under HFRP?

A:    The conservation practices available for financial assistance under HFRP are:

  • Forest stand improvement;
  • Access control;
  • Stream habitat improvement and management;
  • Fish passage;
  • Upland wildlife habitat management;
  • Riparian forest buffer;
  • Tree/shrub establishment;
  • Tree/shrub site preparation;
  • Road/trail/landing closure and treatment; and
  • Forest trails and landings.

 Q:    Is land enrolled in HFRP required to have a forest management plan?

 A:    Yes, the approved management activities must be described in the HFRP management plan to insure program objectives are achieved.

 Q:    What is a restoration plan?

 A:    A restoration plan encompasses all practices necessary to restore and enhance habitat for species listed as threatened and endangered in the HFRP area.

 Q:    How will the presence of threatened and endangered species affect the future use of lands enrolled in HFRP?

 A:    During the contract or easement period, landowners will be required to manage the lands enrolled in HFRP according to a plan that will maximize habitat for threatened and endangered species.  However, at the end of the contract or easement period, NRCS can work with participants to develop an agreement with the USFWS that will protect their lands from new restrictions where management has resulted in increased habitat or populations of threatened and endangered species.  The protections are based on establishing a baseline population or habitat value at the time the land is enrolled in HFRP.  The only requirement is that the participant does not take any action that would reduce the population or habitat below the baseline condition.  In some cases, the baseline condition may be zero, and there would be no future restrictions on lands coming out of the program.

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