Forestry incentives programs support tree planting, management planning, and improvement of forest management practices, substantially increasing timber production returns and environmental benefits.
The 2008 Farm Bill includes a number of forestry cost-share and assistance programs for landowners to help them improve soil and water quality on their land through enhancing forest health, sustainability, and by providing multiple environmental benefits through the long-term growth of their forests. These Farm Bill programs are available through cooperative partnerships of state forestry agencies, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the USDA Farm Services Agency. Several Farm Bill programs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs are summarized below (courtesy Alabama Forestry Commission). For information on additional forest management incentives programs including the Southern Pine Beetle Prevention Program, contact your state forestry agency.
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Programs
- Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI)
The Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) is a voluntary conservation initiative that enables the use of certain conservation programs with resources of eligible partners to provide financial and technical assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and nonindustrial private forestlands.
- Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP)
The Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) is a voluntary program for restoration and enhancement of forest ecosystems to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, improve biodiversity, and enhance carbon sequestration. HFRP provides financial assistance in the form of easement, contract, and cost-share payments for specific conservation actions completed by the landowner.
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) encourages agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations. CSP is a new voluntary conservation program that provides financial and technical assistance to conserve and enhance soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land. CSP provides opportunities to both recognize excellent stewards and deliver valuable new conservation. To apply for the newly revamped CSP, potential participants are encouraged to use a self-screening checklist to determine whether the new program is suitable for them or their operation.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to help eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. EQIP practices target improving forest health, wildlife habitat, and declining threatened and endangered species on agricultural lands. Applications are ranked and selected for funding in order to optimize environmental benefits.
- Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
WHIP is a voluntary program that encourages creation of high quality wildlife habitats that support wildlife populations. Through WHIP, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to landowners and others to develop upland, wetland, riparian, and aquatic habitat areas on their property. This program is designed to enhance and restore threatened and endangered species as well as rare and declining ecosystems.
- Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
WRP is a voluntary program that provides technical assistance and financial incentives to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginal land from agriculture. Landowners that enter into WRP may be paid an easement payment in exchange for enrolling their land. Program emphasis is on restoring wet cropland to bottomland hardwoods.
- Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP)
EWP was set up by Congress to respond to emergencies created by natural disasters and assists in relieving hazards to life and property from floods and the products of erosion created by natural disasters that cause a sudden impairment of a watershed.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Programs
- Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP)
BCAP provides financial assistance to producers or entities that deliver eligible biomass material to designated biomass conversion facilities for use as heat, power, biobased products or biofuels. Initial assistance will be for the Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation (CHST) costs associated with the delivery of eligible materials.
- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners designed to take highly erodible cropland out of production and stabilize soil loss through planting permanent cover crops. Through CRP, landowners can receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland.
Tree planting practices under Regular CRP include:
- CP3 - Longleaf and Other Softwoods Tree Planting
This practice is to establish a stand of trees in a timber planting that will enhance environmental benefits
- CP3A - Hardwood Tree Planting
This practice is to establish a stand of predominately hardwood trees in a timber planting that will enhance environmental benefits
- CP11 – Trees Already Established
This practice is to manage trees that have already been established under prior CRP signups.
- CP3 - Longleaf and Other Softwoods Tree Planting
- Continuous CRP (Forestry and Wildlife Programs)
Environmentally desirable land devoted to certain conservation practices may be enrolled in CRP at any time under continuous sign-up. Offers are automatically accepted provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements. Offers for continuous sign-up are not subject to competitive bidding.
Forestry and wildlife practices available under Continuous CRP include:
- CP21 - Filter Strips The purpose of this practice is to remove nutrients, sediment, organic matter, pesticides, and other pollutants from surface runoff and subsurface flow by deposition, absorption, plant uptake, denitrification, and other processes, and thereby reduce pollution and protect surface water and subsurface water quality while enhancing the ecosystem of the water body.
- CP22 - Riparian Forest Buffer The purpose of this practice is to reduce pollution and protect surface water and subsurface water quality while enhancing the ecosystem of the water body. The program provides cost-share for planting hardwood trees or shrubs in 180 feet buffer strips along streams or ponds. Whole fields adjacent to the steams can also be planted in hardwood or pine species if it has evidence of sedimentation. Eligible lands must have been planted to a commodity crop four years out of the six most recent years or considered marginal pastureland and never cropped.
- CP31 - Bottomland Timber Establishment on Wetlands This initiative works to improve air and water quality as well as increase wildlife habitat along wetland areas. CP31 allows producers to enroll in a CRP practice on lands suitable for growing bottomland hardwood trees or adapted shrubs that will provide multipurpose forest and wildlife benefits.
- CP33 - Field Borders Northern bobwhite quail habitats are disappearing due to urbanization, increased grassland cultivation, and a transitioning of grassy fields into woods and forests -- a process called succession. The Northern Bobwhite Quail Habitat Initiative introduces a conservation practice intended to create 250,000 acres of early successional grass buffers along agricultural field borders.
- CP36 - Longleaf Pine Initiative Longleaf pine was once the dominant tree species on an estimated 60 million acres and in the mix of species on another 30 million acres along the coastal plain from east Texas, the mountains of Alabama, northwest Georgia and the Virginia piedmont. Longleaf pine stands declined over the past 100 years and today occupy fewer than four million acres of the historic range. Longleaf pine forests provide numerous environmental benefits including wildlife habitat.
- CP40 - Farmable Wetlands Program Aquaculture Wetland Restoration
The purpose of this practice is to restore habitat or the functions and values of wetland ecosystems that have been devoted to commercial pond aquaculture.
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
CREP is a voluntary program designed to significantly reduce erosion losses, improve water quality and wildlife habitat. CREP is an enhanced version of CRP. It focuses on landowners who take environmentally-sensitive land out of crop production to plant specific types of vegetation. Landowners can earn annual rental payments and cost-share incentives that exceed current CRP incentives.
- Partners for Fish and Wildlife
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore and enhance fish and wildlife habitat on their property. The program focus is to restore vegetation and hydrology to historic conditions. Habitat is provided for migratory and resident waterfowl, wading birds, songbirds, aquatic species such as snails, mussels, and fish. Focal areas include both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Hundreds of projects have been completed including restoration of wetlands, longleaf pine, caves, and stream habitats.
- Safe Harbor Program
The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) Safe Harbor Program provides guarantees for landowners who manage their pine forests in a manner beneficial to the red-cockaded woodpecker. If woodpeckers increase on a property enrolled in the program as a result of beneficial management practices, obligations under state and federal endangered species laws are not increased. Landowners retain all property rights, and management flexibility is often increased by enrolling in Safe Harbor.