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Impacts of NRCS Conservation Programs in New York State

Wetlands Reserve Program

The Wetlands Reserve Program is one of the larger programs in New York. During FY1999 alone, 3.1 million dollars were spent on financial assistance for the program, 198 contracts were approved and 7,572 acres of agricultural wetlands were committed to wetland restoration. The impact of these activities translates into 44 jobs created by the program and 6 million dollars in increased sales of locally purchased goods and services across the state. Restoration measures (including low berms, ditch plugs, potholes, level ditches, and plantings) also lead to improvements in water quality, ecological support of threatened and endangered species, fisheries, aesthetics, and recreation including hunting and wildlife observation. A recent survey reported that over 600,000 people hunt in New York and over three million participate in wildlife observation activities on an annual basis. Expenditures per person average $1,150 for hunters and $340 for wildlife watchers. The WRP supports these activities by providing additional recreational opportunities closer to home. A second study suggests that these recreational activities constitute a value of $21 per acre of wetland translating into an annual benefit of $151,000 statewide due to restoration activities during FY1999 alone.

Plant Materials Program

The plant materials program in New York serves states from Maine to West Virginia by developing plants and new ways to use them in conservation applications. The program consists of the plant materials center and plant materials specialist teams. The New York team has released 18 plant varieties to commercial production. During the 1999 fiscal year alone, $1,000,000 was generated through the sale of these conservation plants from commercial nurseries and seed companies. This revenue resulted in an additional $800,000 in the purchase of goods and services nationwide. The benefits of these plants go far beyond their commercial success as they work to stabilize streambanks, provide food and shelter for threatened and endangered wildlife species and conserve the soil on badly eroded cropland. In this way, the plant materials program supports and contributes to the success of all other programs administered by the NRCS in New York by making these plants available to solve resource problems.

Forestry Incentives Program

The Forestry Incentives Program (FIP) is authorized under the Cooperative Forestry Act of 1978. The program is designed to apply forestry for reforestation, timber stand improvement, and the conservation and wise management of forest and related land, water, wildlife, and recreation resources. The main program objective is to increase the national supply of timber products from non-industrial private forestlands (NIPF). Program benefits include watershed protection, wildlife habitat enhancement and establishment, and improved forest growth by concentrating the site qualities on the most promising trees in a stand. This latter benefit may also have an effect on increasing carbon sequestration through more vigorous growth and healthier forest stands. FIP in New York was directed to seven high priority counties during FY1999. Through this program, NRCS secured 31 contracts on 430.5 acres. The $31,000 obligated by the program was used for timber stand improvement activities such as tree thinning. These expenditures resulted in $55,000 in economic activity throughout the state.

Conservation Reserve Program

The Conservation Reserve Program in New York has attracted participants from throughout the state with over 55,000 acres enrolled in the program as of October 1, 1999. Most of this land has been seeded to permanent grasses including native warm season grass species. Tree plantings, riparian forest buffers and filter strips have been used by program participants in New York as well. All of these practices have resulted in reduced soil erosion, improved water quality and fisheries, increased recreational opportunities, increased carbon sequestration, and more diverse wildlife habitat on some of the state's most vulnerable cropland. In addition, the removal of New York's most erosive and least profitable cropland from production has reduced erosion by 288,000 tons statewide and has improved the net returns to cropland still in production. Total federal expenditures for the program were about 3 million generating $3.7 million in local sales statewide and creating 37 new jobs across the state.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Projects for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) have been implemented throughout the state since its inception in 1997. Almost 300 contracts were written for the program during FY1999 alone. Most of these contracts call for practices focusing on nutrient management and erosion control measures. About 3.3 million in federal dollars came in to the state through this program last year. Once the implementation dollars have been spent, New York will see an additional $5.6 million in economic activity and 25 more jobs statewide. These benefits to the economy of New York State are secondary to the widespread environmental and recreational benefits that are accruing due to EQIP. The number two industry in New York is tourism, aided in part by the state's abundant series of clean lakes and streams. In addition to maintaining agricultural viability, implementation of agricultural conservation practices enhances recreational opportunities and tourism as well by helping to maintain the purity of the state's valuable water resources

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program

The focus for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program in New York is to restore and establish grassland habitat for songbirds. It has been documented that New York has lost thousands of acres of this habitat in the last 15 to 20 years alone. This change in land use has resulted in a decline in song birds enjoyed by both urban and rural residents alike. Furthermore, the decline in certain species of song birds has led to a corresponding decline in wildlife diversity which can have long term adverse impacts on the survival of other species of wildlife. Given this focus for the program, the primary practices funded are the planting and management of warm and cool season grasses. During the most recent fiscal year, 82 new contracts were signed obligating nearly $400,000 in implementation costs and technical assistance. This influx of federal spending leads to $640,000 in local sales.

Small Watersheds Program (PL-566)

Since 1954, over twenty projects have been constructed under the Small Watersheds Program in New York. The majority of these projects were designed and built to alleviate flooding and have benefited communities across the state through flood protection and, in some cases, recreational opportunities they offer. In the case of a single storm (Hurricane Floyd), four completed flood control projects accrued over 16 million dollars in benefits because of the flooding that didn't occur when the storm tore through the southeastern portion of the state. At the same time, the federal investment for new projects in New York last year was only $2.7 million. This spending resulted in 26 jobs across the state and local sales of $3.3 million. When the benefits attributable to Hurricane Floyd are added to the equation, the increase in local sales for the PL 566 program is $22 million statewide.

Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative

New York State dairy and livestock producers once again benefited during this past year from the activities and efforts funded through the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI). The NRCS earmark of $365,000 was allocated to increase the amount of grazing land information, education and technical assistance reaching New York State dairy and livestock producers. This funding resulted in twelve new jobs in the state and $700,000 in economic activity. Beyond the economic benefits, the program reached nearly 60 NRCS, SWCD, and CCE employees as well as over 2,000 dairy and livestock producers who attended GLCI sponsored grassland-based livestock production systems training programs, pasture walks and seminars in 81 locations across the state. Over 4,000 acres of prescribed grazing management have been planned with 2,300 acres of implementation already in place.

The result of all of this implementation is an increase in grassland agriculture which benefits the environment through reduced erosion and sedimentation and reduced energy costs for feed production. The farmer realizes concrete benefits as well with lower production costs resulting in annual net profits of $80 to $300 per cow.

The short write-ups were develop for local usage by Flo Swartz, NY State Economist.