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Catastrophic Fire Recovery

Overview

The conservation goals and funding priorities of the Catastrophic Fire Recovery ranking pool is to provide immediate resource protection in areas burned by catastrophic fires in the past three years on non-industrial private forestland (NIPF), grazing lands and croplands.

Priority resource concerns for NIPF and grazing lands include immediate soil erosion protection, minimize noxious and invasive plant proliferation, protect water quality, reduce fire hazard due to excess dead vegetation build-up, and restore livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management. The State Conservationist has determined that the geographic scope of a Forest Management Plan and NIPF does not include areas within 100 feet from a building or a greater distance if required by state law, or local ordinance, rule, or regulation.

Priority resource concerns for cropland include immediate soil erosion protection and protect water quality from pollutants that have the potential to enter local streams and river from lands that have been damaged during wildfires and fire suppression activities.

The immediate consequence of fire is the potential for soil erosion. Intense heat from fire can cause the soil to repel water, a condition called hydrophobicity. The potential for severe soil erosion is a consequence of catastrophic wildfire because as a fire burns it destroys plant material and the litter layer that protects the soil from eroding during severe rainstorms and moving off- site to surface water bodies, roads and other sites.

Immediate action to control soil erosion on burned forestlands and agricultural lands include treatments such as using damaged trees or woody residues to slow runoff water, creating check dams in drainages, conservation covers, erosion control structures and spreading straw to protect the soil and reseeding efforts.

Most post-burn range sites are also susceptible to invasion by noxious weeds. Rangeland noxious weeds and soil erosion can be controlled through management and distribution of livestock to facilitate recovery of burned sites most at risk for erosion and weed proliferation. In some cases, range planting may be necessary if range seed source is absent.

Many existing forestland and agricultural land access roads and culvert systems may be severely damaged during fire suppression activities. In addition, emergency roads created during the fire event may need to be addressed - both are potential sources of sediment and turbidity in surface water bodies. Riparian zones with heavy biomass accumulation are often high intensity fire areas where temporary access trails were built for fire suppression and these trails can be direct sediment sources to riparian streams as well.

Following catastrophic fires noxious and invasive plants often proliferate on post-burn sites. Forests that are not planted with tree seedlings within one growing season of the fire will result in shrub regeneration that can capture sites where natural regeneration is not present. These shrub communities can be very aggressive and within one season will dominate the forest site, increasing the intensity of reforestation practices such as herbicide application, mastication or brush raking to ensure the success of tree plantings.

Trees and other vegetation burned by the wildfire also can be a longer term future wildfire hazard and an immediate public safety hazard related to falling trees.  When large quantities of trees and shrubs are severely burned, the dead vegetation presents a fire hazard due the accumulation of excess flammable woody biomass.  This debris also inhibits fire area restoration efforts, such as reforestation, to reestablish a healthy, fire resilient forest. Practices that remove, reduce or reconfigure the excess woody debris will contribute to achieving restoration and public safety goals.

The following sections include the applicable land uses, resource concerns, and conservation practices for the ranking pool.

Land Uses

The descriptions below are the general NRCS land use definitions - applications should fit within, but do not need to exactly match, these descriptions. Below are the applicable land uses for the ranking pool.

  • Forest: Land on which the primary vegetation is tree cover (climax, natural or introduced plant community) and use is primarily for production of wood products or non-timber forest products.
  • Range: Land used primarily for the production of grazing animals. Includes native plant communities and those seeded to native or introduced species, or naturalized by introduced species that are ecologically managed using range management principles.
  • Crop: Land used primarily for the production and harvest of annual or perennial field, forage, food, fiber, horticultural, orchard, vineyard, or energy crops.
  • Pasture: Land composed of introduced or domesticated native forage species that is used primarily for the production of livestock. Pastures receive periodic renovation and cultural treatments, such as tillage, fertilization, mowing, weed control, and may be irrigated. Pastures are not in rotation with crops.
  • Farmstead: Land used for facilities and supporting infrastructure where farming, forestry, animal husbandry, and ranching activities are often initiated. This may include dwellings, equipment storage, plus farm input and output storage and handling facilities.
  • Associated Agricultural Lands: Land associated with farms and ranches that are not purposefully managed for food, forage, or fiber and are typically associated with nearby production or conservation lands. This could include incidental areas, such as odd areas, ditches and watercourses, riparian areas, field edges, seasonal and permanent wetlands, and other similar areas.

Resource Concerns

The goal of conservation planning is to help each client attain sustainable use and sound management of soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources, based on related human considerations (SWAPAE+H).  Below is a list of priority resource concerns for the ranking pool.

SWAPAE+H
Resource Concern Category
Resource Concern
Soil
 
Concentrated Erosion
Bank erosion from streams, shorelines or water conveyance channels
Classic gully erosion
Ephemeral gully erosion
Soil Quality Limitation
Aggregate instability
Compaction
Concentration of salts or other chemicals
Organic matter depletion
Soil organism habitat loss or degradation
Subsidence
Wind and Water Erosion
Sheet and rill erosion
Wind erosion
Water
Field, Sediment, Nutrient, and Pathogen Loss
Nutrients transported to groundwater
Nutrients transported to surface water
Pathogens and chemicals from manure biosolids, or compost applications transported to groundwater
Pathogens and chemicals from manure biosolids, or compost applications transported to surface water
Sediment transported to surface water
Field Pesticide Loss
Pesticides transported to groundwater
Pesticides transported to surface water
Source Water Depletion
Groundwater depletion
Inefficient irrigation water use
Surface water depletion
Storage and Handling of Pollutants
Nutrients transported to groundwater
Nutrients transported to surface water
Pesticides transported to surface water
Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to groundwater
Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to surface water
Weather Resilience
Drifted snow
Naturally available moisture use
Ponding and flooding
Seasonal high water table
Seeps
Air
Air Quality Emissions
Emissions of airborne reactive nitrogen
Emissions of greenhouse gases - GHGs
Emissions of ozone precursors
Emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors
Objectionable odor
Plants
Degraded Plant Condition
Plant Productivity and Health
Plant structure and composition
Pest Pressure
Plant pest pressure
Fire Management
Wildfire hazard from biomass accumulation
Animals
Aquatic Habitat
Aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms
Elevated water temperature
Livestock Production Limitation
Feed and forage balance
Inadequate livestock shelter
Inadequate livestock water quantity, quality, and distribution
Terrestrial Habitat
Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates
Energy
Inefficient Energy Use
Energy efficient equipment and facilities
Energy efficient farming/ranching practices and field operations

Conservation Practices

NRCS conservation practices eligible for financial assistance through this ranking pool are listed in the below table. For more information about NRCS conservation practices visit the following website link: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/technical/?cid=NRCSDEV11_001020.

Practice Code
Conservation Practice Name
Practice Units
Lifespan (Years)
314
Brush Management
ac
10
315
Herbaceous Weed Control
ac
5
326
Clearing and Snagging
ft
5
327
Conservation Cover
ac
5
340
Cover Crop
ac
1
342
Critical Area Planting
ac
10
350
Sediment Basin
no
20
362
Diversion
ft
10
382
Fence
ft
20
384
Woody Residue Treatment
ac
10
390
Riparian Herbaceous Cover
ac
5
391
Riparian Forest Buffer
ac
15
393
Filter Strip
ac
10
410
Grade Stabilization Structure
no
15
412
Grassed Waterway
ac
10
430
Irrigation Pipeline
ft
20
441
Irrigation System, Microirrigation1
ac
15
460
Land Clearing
ac
10
462
Precision Land Forming
ac
10
468
Lined Waterway or Outlet
ft
15
472
Access Control
ac
10
484
Mulching
ac
1
490
Tree/Shrub Site Preparation
ac
1
500
Obstruction Removal
ac
10
516
Livestock Pipeline
ft
20
528
Prescribed Grazing
ac
1
533
Pumping Plant
no
15
548
Grazing Land Mechanical Treatment
ac
1
550
Range Planting
ac
5
560
Access Road
ft
10
561
Heavy Use Protection
ac
10
570
Stormwater Runoff Control
no
1
572
Spoil Spreading
ac
1
578
Stream Crossing
no
10
580
Streambank and Shoreline Protection
ft
20
584
Channel Bed Stabilization
ft
10
587
Structure for Water Control
no
20
606
Subsurface Drain
ft
20
612
Tree/Shrub Establishment
ac
15
614
Watering Facility
no
20
620
Underground Outlet
ft
20
630
Vertical Drain
no
10
636
Water Harvesting Catchment
no
20
638
Water and Sediment Control Basin
no
10
654
Road/Trail/Landing Closure and Treatment
ft
10
655
Forest Trails and Landings
ft
5
666
Forest Stand Improvement
ac
10

1Conservation Practice Standard (CPS), 441 – Irrigation System, Microirrigation, is eligible to support establishment of non-production vegetative plantings only.

Interested Applicants

For more information about EQIP, how to apply and program eligibility, interested applicants should contact a NRCS field office in the county which you own land or where you have an agricultural operation. 

Visit https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/ to find the NRCS representative for your county.