As you may know, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), has money available to help landowners manage their forest land. These funds can be used for a variety of projects including forest management planning, tree planting and pre-commercial thinning.
In order to qualify for planning or thinning money, however, a landowner must first file a NRCS-approved forest management plan, which, in fact, qualifies for EQIP financial assistance. For example, on an 80 acre management plan, the NRCS will provide a cost-share payment of about $1,250 for plan preparation. Once the plan is completed, a landowner can then apply for planting or thinning funding (the agency usually covers about one-half of the project cost).
But a few caveats should be kept in mind when applying for EQIP funding. First, the NRCS generally batches all applications once a year, usually in late fall. So if you miss the deadline, you must wait a whole year to apply again. Note that this fall’s application deadline is not yet set, but is likely to occur in November. Second, although finding has always been available for forest management plans, last year money for planting and thinning was exhausted before all projects were funded. Third, it does take time. The application process requires the completion of a significant amount of paperwork. (It is the federal government, after all.) Nonetheless, the NRCS staff is very helpful and willing to help you navigate through the forms. And fourth, since the whole process is time consuming, it usually doesn’t make sense to pursue a small project of say, a few acres.
IFM personnel are NRCS certified to provide on-the-ground EQIP program administration assistance. If you are interested in learning more about EQIP, or to apply for cost-share money, please contact our office or your local NRCS office.