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Minutes of June 2011 Meeting

Welcome and Introductions

Joyce Swartzendruber Joyce thanked everyone for coming, especially during the flooding and field season. Joyce announced to the STAC the current staff changes in the NRCS. Carrie Mosley formerly the ASTC for Programs is now the ASTC for Operations; Tim Ouellette formerly the ASTC for Operations in now the ASTC for Programs. Joyce has also made the state resource conservationist (SRC), currently Ron Nadwornick, the lead for the STAC. Ron is retiring with NRCS July, 1st and until his position is filled Debbie Kaiser will be the acting SRC. Currently NRCS has 22 student trainees working for us through the summer months.

Joyce provided a very brief update on the RC&D closeouts, all NRCS RC&D offices are officially closed and we have been directed to not charge any time to RC&Ds. Several of the coordinators are retiring and the others will be placed in other positions.

FSA Update - Dick Deschamps

Currently Dick Deschamps has been named the Acting FSA Director. Bruce Nelson has taken the Administrator position for FSA in Washington D.C.

Flooding and EWP Update – Joyce Swartzendruber

Joyce discussed with the group what the Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) is and how it is used by NRCS. EWP provides assistance to sponsors in areas that have been damaged by natural disasters, such as floods. The program safeguards lives and property by installing conservation measures to reduce storm water runoff and prevent soil erosion. Eligible practices include removal of sediment and debris in channels to restore hydraulic capacity; repair of irrigation canal or drainage ditch embankments; measures that prevent massive soil erosion, landslides, or excessive runoff; removal of structures and obstructions that impede or impair the floodplain; disposal of animal carcasses if they pose a public health hazard or could impede channels; and measures to prevent damage to public and private roads, culverts, and bridges when failure of those facilities would impair the watershed.

NRCS state and field personnel are currently surveying damaged areas and working with their local partners to identify the full scope of the damage and prepare disaster survey reports. NRCS is coordinating with other state and federal agencies in order to match needs with the appropriate available assistance program. To date 142 sites are being considered and 22 look like they will be eligible for EWP.

EWP is not an annually appropriated program; therefore each state has to ask for monies from headquarters during a specific event. At this time Joyce is working with the NRCS staff to collect all the information needed to submit our request for funds to headquarters.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP )Special Initiatives – Joyce Swartzendruber

NRCS will have two new Special Initiatives from the flooding.

  • Cover Crops
  • Extend Sign-up for animal feeding operations for 2012 EQIP

Q. Will there be anything to assist with irrigation equipment?
A. Not eligible thru NRCS-FSA programs

Q. EWP flood plain easement
A. Yes, possibly. We will have to request conversion of the EWP funds for that purpose if we have a need.

Subcommittee Reports

Tribal Conservation Issue Committee – Roy Doore

Tribes would like to see more forestry participation but, CSP canopy rates are causing a problem. The tribes would like all NRCS employees that are working on the reservations and with the tribes with some sort of cultural resources training. To help them better understand the Indian culture. Roy reminded everyone that the Grazing Seminar has been changed to August.

Wetlands and Wildlife Committee – Jim Stutzman

During the April meeting the group had 3 major discussion issues.

1. Shared Positions with the NRCS and other agencies. The committee felt that sharing positions would allow more employees and NRCS could provide more conservation expertise in the field and really help those offices that are having a hard time keeping up with the current workload.

2. Wetland restoration/enhancement and water rights issues. Learning about and understanding these issues are very complicated and more training would be helpful in dealing in these areas.

3. WRP/WREP Program Delivery Issues. In NE Montana there is a need to find more avenues to market these programs. There are a lot of potential enrollment acres, but we are having a hard time getting landowners to sign-up. Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARP) are very low and this could be causing the landowners to be reluctant to participate.

Forestry – Gary Johnson

Gary spoke about the Joint Management Plan.

Sage Grouse Update – Rick Northrup

Rick provided an update to the group on the status of the Sage Grouse monitoring efforts in Montana. See attached PowerPoint.  [Contact Leslie Taylor to request this PowerPoint.]

Resource Assessment Update – Tim Ouellette

Tim discussed the current status of the Resource Assessment Plan for Montana. The Resource assessment is a management approach for developing long-term goals and strategies to achieve environmental outcomes. See attached PowerPoint. [Contact Leslie Taylor to request this PowerPoint.]

Finalize Minimal Effects Procedures - Ron Nadwornick

Montana NRCS has set-up a procedure to address wetland minimal effects that may need mitigation. There was an issue paper sent out that was open for comments. The comments were compiled, then a process paper and standard procedures were drafted. Ron asked the group to review one last time and then it will be put in a Final document from FSA.

FRPP Update of State Plan – Dennis Dellwo

Dennis first provided the group with a brief background on the program and how it works. We have acquired over the past 10 years. NRCS monies go only to the acquisition of the land.

Program Update – Carrie Mosley

In Fiscal Year 2011 Montana NRCS received over 64 million dollars in Farm Bill Programs. Currently in EQIP we are 49% obligated in 463 contracts. Carrie provided the group with a breakdown of each EQIP Special Initiative and the dollars that have been allocated. See Attached PowerPoint. [Contact Leslie Taylor to request this PowerPoint.] The meeting adjourned at 3 o’clock. The next meeting is scheduled for September 13th in Lewistown.