The purpose of this article is to re-acquaint the landowners and residents of Beaver Island with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the services the agency has to offer. The goal of the NRCS is to increase the stewardship of private lands resulting in clean water and air, improved soils and abundant wildlife habitat. This is mainly done by working with landowners to develop conservation plans which address resource concerns and meet the objectives of the landowner.
We also work with the local conservation districts to help carry out their goals of addressing local resource issues. The Charlevoix Conservation District is located in Boyne City and they have an annual tree sale in both the spring and fall where native trees, shrubs and other plants are available for re-forestation and wildlife purposes. The Emmet Conservation District has a no-till drill for planting hayfields or wildlife plantings and the Charlevoix District rents a no-till corn-planter and a tree planter. They both have access to an abundance of resource information. The Charlevoix District has a beachgrass nursery from where beachgrasss is harvested and sold by the bundle to property owners to stabilize sand dune and beach areas.
To help the landowner carry out his or her plans for the land we have several cost-share programs available and access to numerous amounts of technical information which is free of charge to the general public. In these very difficult times we find ourselves in, any financial incentives can be helpful in getting beneficial conservation projects completed. We have several cost-share programs which are briefly explained below.
Applications for these programs are accepted at any time. All applications are ranked which means it is competitive, there’s no guarantee of approval, but there is usually adequate funding for most. The new 2008 Farmbill rules are not final yet, so some of the criteria for eligibility and what practices are funded will have changed. At the time of this printing the programs will most likely have had applications approved and funding obligated, but there should be funds available through the summer and un-funded applications are placed on a pending list to be approved as more funding becomes available.
Beaver Island is quite remote and physically removed from the rest of Charlevoix County, but I want to make Island residents aware of our services and to let them know that they have the same opportunity and access to the NRCS programs as everyone else. We have worked with several islanders in the past, but in the last few years there has been little contact and request for services. There can be an issue with access to the Island due to availability of funds for travel, but this can be worked out and we will respond to requests for site visits.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – In this program the land must be considered agricultural. This includes private non-industrial forestland. A minimum
1 year contract and up to 10 years is possible. There is a long list of eligible
practices including: Animal Waste Storage Systems, Agrichemical Handling Facilities, Erosion Control Practices, Windbreaks, Prescribed Grazing Systems, Closure of Waste Impoundments, Livestock Stream Crossings, Tree/ Shrub Establishment, Well Decommissioning and many others. Cost-share is provided at an approximate rate of 50 percent and limited resource and beginning farmers receive a rate 15 percent higher. To be eligible there must be a resource concern identified and possible other criteria. Under the new 2008 Farmbill there may be some funding for developing forest stewardship plans and fish and wildlife habitat plans.
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) – Nearly all private land is eligible and the landowner must agree to a 5-10 year contract. Approximately 75% of the cost to install the practices is cost-shared (paid by NRCS). This program has the main focus of developing and improving critical wildlife habitats using Native plant species. Several practices can be included in a contract such as Wildlife Corridor development, Tree/Shrub Establishment, Native Grass Seedings, Streambank Habitat Restoration and others including addressing specific invasive species.
The Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) – This program focuses on creating buffers such as filter strips, field windbreaks and riparian corridors. The land must meet the cropping criteria or contain marginal pastureland in order to meet eligibility requirements. There are cost-share incentives as well as an annual rental payment made to the participant who must install and maintain these practices. There are also easement programs where the landowner allows the government to put an easement on the eligible property in return for either a one time or annual payments.
The Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) – This program is for long-term protection of grasslands and grazing lands on private or tribal lands. It is designed to maintain and improve “open space” that meet the criteria. 10 to 20 year rental agreements and permanent easements are available and a grazing management plan is required.
The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) – The purpose of the WRP is to restore and protect wetland habitats that have been altered or Degraded. The area must contain eligible soils which are considered to be poorly drained and must have been altered by tiling, ditching or pastured by livestock. Areas which are hayed may be eligible if they meet the soils and hydrology criteria. The WRP offers the landowner three different options.
- Restoration Only – This would result in construction of a minimum ½ acre size push-out which is a shallow wildlife pond. The landowner would receive 75 % cost-share and would agree to keep the push-out for at least 10 years.
- 30 Year Easement – Under a 30 year easement agreement the landowner allows the government to place a 30 year easement on the area included and in return receives 75% of an appraised value per acre included and 75% of the cost to install push-outs in the wetland areas.
- Permanent Easement – Under the permanent easement the landowner receives 100% of the appraised value and 100% of the cost to create the wildlife push-outs. The land accepted into the WRP under this easement will remain that way forever and can not be developed or have the wetlands destroyed in any way. There are many acceptable compatible uses which can be included in a contract such as leasing the land for hunting, planting food plots and many others. The rate cap for Charlevoix County is $1700 which is the maximum which can be received per acre. The land must not have changed ownership in the past 7 years to be eligible.
The Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) –The FRPP is a program to assist landowners in placing a permanent easement on farmland by purchasing development rights so the land will remain in agriculture. Landowners eligible for this program must be actively working with a land protection entity such as the Little Traverse Conservancy and have a pending offer in the works. The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides 50 % of the agreed to appraised value and the entity and landowner come up with the rest.
There is also a new program which will be available this year that we have not had in this area before which is the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP). Its purpose is to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, to improve biodiversity and enhance carbon sequestration which is talked about a lot now with increasing global warming concerns. There will be easements and cost-share agreements available. Further details will become available in the near future.
There will also be a Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP) which will reward agricultural landowners for good stewardship practices that they have done in the past and are still in place. This will involve annual payments for a period of 5 consecutive years.
These programs all start with the development of a conservation plan which can be done at any time. Please feel free to call the office with any questions about these programs or any other environmental or natural resource issue.
Bill Borgeld, NRCS Petosky
Emmet Conservation District
( 231) 439-8996
Charlevoix Conservation District