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Aiken Landowner Achieves Goals with USDA Cost


Aiken Landowner Achieves Goals with USDA Cost-Share Programs





Landowner, David Lewis, works with Aiken County DC, David Howe.

David Lewis (left) of Aiken, SC, discusses the plans for his land with NRCS District Conservationist David Howe.

by Amy O. Maxwell, USDA-NRCS,
Communications and Marketing Specialist

David D. Lewis, of Aiken County, South Carolina, is adedicated hunter and an avid fisherman. So much so, that Lewis is buying land inan effort to establish his own hunting and fishing areas. Five years ago, hecontacted David Howe, NRCS district conservationist, for technical guidance.Since that time, NRCS has helped him restore and enlarge an existing pond, planttrees on highly erodible land, and plant grass for bailing hay. Lewis receivedcost-share and technical assistance for his conservation efforts through NRCS’Forestry Incentives Program (FIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Working with Howe, Lewis has been able to accomplish goals that he oncethought were impossible.

"In 1993, I established a goal for myself to purchaseidle farmland and convert it into something productive." Without NRCS'guidance and cost-share assistance, I would never have accomplished this muchand probably would have made a lot more mistakes," emphasized Lewis. Heowns approximately 200 acres of land that consists of 30 acres of pastureland,100 acres of bottomland swamp that borders the Edisto River, a five-acre pond,and a remaining 65 acres of woodland. Aside from his wish to create primehunting and fishing areas, Lewis is a true conservationist. "He cares aboutthe environment as well as enhancing wildlife habitatand follows through with his conservation plans," commented Howe.

Lewis first contacted NRCS in 1995 when he requestedassistance in restoring a three-acre pond on his newly purchased land. Theexisting dam was approaching failure and needed to be reinforced. Lewis alsowanted to make the pond as large as possible, but needed the NRCS technicalassistance to determine the size restrictions of the pond. Howe designed therestored, improved, and enlarged pond, and Lewis was pleased with the results."I have been really happy with the pond, and I am confident that the newlyrestored dam is reliable," said Lewis. He also remarked that the propertyvalue has increased due to the pond restoration. Someday, he hopes to build ahome site near the pond. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR)provided six duck boxes for the pond which Lewis says he and his wife haveenjoyed. "We love wildlife and it feels good to know that we are improvingtheir habitat."

Lewis then turned his attention to the rest of his land whichconsisted of idle cropland. He decided to plant trees, both for profit as wellas enhanced wildlife habitat. "I had a private forestry consultant visit myland to give me an estimate for planting trees," mentioned Lewis."Then, local farmers told me about NRCS' cost-share programs and that’swhen David suggested FIP."

FIP assisted him in planting 36 acres of trees, includinglongleaf and loblolly pines. "By receiving cost-share through FIP, I savedover $2,000 and received much needed technical guidance," he said. Howealso suggested that Lewis apply for assistance through EQIP to plant grass forhay in an old watermelon field. Lewis is now able to make a profit by bailinghay and is considering fencing in the area to hold cattle.

Lewis is proud of the work he has accomplished on his landand looks forward to improving it in years to come. "I know that this landis going to play a major role in my life, and someday I hope to have a housebuilt near the pond so that I can call this my home," he revealed. "Iam thankful for NRCS cost-share programs and conservation professionals, likeDavid, who have the knowledge to help landowners make informed,environmentally-sound decisions."

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