Now Hiring! Do you have experience managing people and programs, and a passion for working with people to help them be stewards of their agricultural and natural resources? The Wexford Conservation District is seeking a district manager.
Our Winter Wednesday Workshop series begins this month. We hope to see you there!
Tree Sale information is now available on the website. Click the button below to download a copy of the catalog or view it online. Or, all us at (231) 775-7681, ext. 3 if you would like to have a catalog mailed to you.
Look for us in the Cadillac News! Our weekly column - "Conservation Corner" is featured every Tuesday.
Here's this week's article:
Planning for the Future
Conservation planning and funding is available to landowners
Landowners who are managing their land for food, livestock and forest products are always planning for the future. The staff at the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service’s field office in Cadillac can be a part of that planning process and help you assess your land and resources. We can help you see where improvements could be made to protect a resource and improve the financial sustainability of the farm. The end result will be a conservation plan that is a record of decisions by you as the landowner and producer.
Conservation plans are developed and implemented to protect, conserve, and/or enhance natural resources. Natural resources are defined by NRCS to include soil, water, air, plants, animals, energy, and human considerations.
The plan outlines practices and activities needed to solve identified natural resource concerns and a schedule for implementation.
How Conservation Planning Works
When we start working with a new client we follow the following principles:
Implementing the Plan
Once a conservation plan has been developed it is time to start the implementation of the plan.
The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) can help with implementing their plan by providing technical assistance and possibly financial assistance.
For technical assistance with the implementation of a plan, NRCS has engineers and certified conservation planners that can assist landowners with implementing a wide array of practices from livestock fencing, to small pollinator conservation plantings, to a large and complicated animal waste storage facility.
There is financial assistance comes through two different programs. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides conservation financial assistance for working lands. Rather than take land out of production, EQIP helps landowners maintain or improve production while conserving natural resources. EQIP assistance is available for all types of agricultural operations, including field crops, specialty crops, organic farms, confined livestock, grazing operations, and private forestland.
Landowners with forested lands can benefit from this program through practices such as wildlife habitat improvement, controlling erosion on forest roads, and improving the management of the forest for timber.
The Cadillac Area Land Conservancy (CALC) is currently managing the Oliver Preserve for timber and wildlife and is participating in the EQIP program. “The conservation plan has guided the conservancy in their efforts to improve the property they manage,” said Larry Copley of CALC. “The public are welcome to observe and in enjoy the conservation practices we have implemented on the Oliver Preserve just east of Harrietta.”
Landowners can choose to apply for enrollment in EQIP to help pay for the cost of eligible conservation practices included in the plan. Applications are selected on a competitive basis based on their environmental benefits and cost effectiveness. Successful applicants may enter into a contract to implement designated conservation practices. The contract establishes what practices will receive financial assistance, the amount of financial assistance to be provided, and a timeline for implementing the conservation practices. Terms of the contract are binding for both the landowner and the USDA-NRCS.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is also for working lands, be they agricultural land or forested land. The program is designed to help landowners build on their existing conservation efforts by bringing their entire operation up to a high conservation standard.
Landowners who are interested in committing to this high standard can enter into a five-year contract, with the option to renew for another five years. The contracts provide landowners with an annual payment, as well as cost-share reimbursement for “enhancement” conservation practices.
Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.
“The Pollinator planting has done very well and we have enjoyed watching the wildlife use these areas,” said Bob Haskin of Lake City. “The plan that was develop has helped us protect our natural resources over the years.”
Through CSP, the USDA-NRCS can help landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of the entire operation. Good land stewardship not only conserves the natural resources on your farm or forest; it also provides multiple benefits to local communities, including better water and air quality and wildlife habitat, food, and fiber.
Landowners can sign up for both EQIP and CSP throughout the year. However, it can take several months for an application to be approved, so the sooner landowners apply, the better off they will be.
The Cadillac Area Land Conservancy developed a conservation plan with the USDA-NRCS for the Oliver Family Preserve. The plan enabled them to and receive financial assistance through the Environmental Quality and Incentive Program for tree and shrub plantings. The tree shelters in this photo are protecting the hardwood trees that were planted, and helping them get off to a good start.
Having adequate pasture for your livestock will improve the forage quality and reduce the risk of erosion. A conservation plan along with a grazing plan is an important part of a successful grazing system.
The installation of a conservation practices such as this graveled farm lane on the Haskin farm has allowed Mr. Haskin to safely access all his pastures to fully implement his conservation plan.
A landowner preparing a small field to be planted to a native grass and pollinator mix to enhance his property through the Conservation Stewardship Program.