Who are those NRCS folks and what can they do for me?
I was talking recently with a landowner about some of the projects they had in mind for their property. As is the case with many of the folks I work with, they had projects that required much more time and money than they had to give. The solution to many of their restraints was a simple call to their local NRCS District Conservationist.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS and formally known as the Soil Conservation Service) is a federal agency that is committed to the conservation of soil and water resources. A lot of their work is focused on reducing soil erosion and maintaining or improving ground and surface water quality. They do this by providing technical and financial assistance to landowners. You can learn more about the wide array of technical assistance they provide by following this link.
The NRCS District Conservationists also administer a number of programs that provide financial assistance to landowners, several of which are great for woodland owners specifically. These are voluntary programs that do require some commitments on the landowner’s part.
The first one is called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP for short. The program provides financial assistance to improve and sustain forest health, restore or maintain natural plant communities, and improve wildlife and pollinator habitat along with a number of other benefits. EQIP will pay for practices like tree and shrub establishment, forest stand improvement, trails and landings, and management plans. You can learn more about EQIP here.
The second is called the Conservation Stewardship program, or CSP. This program is a good one for those landowners who want to take the stewardship of their land to the next level. For woodland owners who want to improve the cover, food and water available for wildlife, this might be a great program. You can learn more about CSP here.
You can find your local District Conservationist by following this link. I always encourage the landowners I work with to talk with their local DNR Forester before going to the NRCS. DNR Foresters have experience working with their local District Conservationists and their programs, and so can help landowners figure out which program (including some offered by the DNR) is best for them.