In Maximizing Your Property: Selective Harvest Timbering, we discussed the benefits of selective harvest timbering in terms of dollars and as a key component in habitat improvement. Here we discuss how you can use another tool, land conservation partnerships with your state and federal government, to further improve your habitat and possibly receive additional funding to support your plans. These days, land conservation isn’t just about planting a few trees for Arbor Day!
Every state has different programs where landowners receive payment for stewardship and conservation programs. The federal government also offers lots of options for landowners, especially those with large properties. I was amazed at the number of state and federal programs which pay you for the conservation work. Finding one which aligns with your wildlife management and/or farming goals is fairly easy.
Our Land Conservation Partnership
Gabby and I are partnering with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) which is part of the United States Department of Agriculture. The program is designed to increase habitat for the Cerulean Warbler.
Photo By DiaGraphic – licensed by Creative Commons version 4.0
The Cerulean Warbler prefers a mixed forest consisting of white oak, hickory and other similar hardwoods with a good mid-story to rear its fledglings. It prefers small areas of clear-cut habitat and a thick understory to protect it from predators while feeding on insects. Fortunately, this Cerulean Warbler habitat is the same habitat required for quality whitetail deer, turkey, bear and ruffed grouse management.
The Cerulean Warbler
The Cerulean Warbler is on the threatened list due to habitat loss. The bird is a migratory species which winters in Central and South America. They return north each spring to breed and rear their fledglings throughout the midwest and Appalachians. As habitat continues to disappear in the Appalachians, the Cerulean Warbler population continues to decline.
The NRCS, working with the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture (AMJV), is looking for private landowners to return their land to favorable habitat for several species of birds throughout the Appalachians. Aligning your property goals with a conservation program should be relatively easy.
We are partnering with the Cerulean Warbler program and over the next three years we will execute our projects in Phases I-III of our Wildlife Management Plan (WMP). The NRCS will provide payment as we complete each project.
Again, these are projects which we planned to complete anyway and now we will receive funding for our completed work. Not only will this cover our expenses and time in the field, it will allow us to keep our equipment up-to-date and to make improvements we may not have been able to afford.
Certainly, improving our habitat for the Cerulean Warbler and our wildlife is a win-win for all the humans, animals and birds!
How To Partner
The process is amazingly simple. We registered our land with the district Farm Bureau and then drafted an application with the NRCS, which was literally down the hall.
In a few weeks, we received a call from the regional Cerulean Warbler Specialist and agreed to meet at our property. He invited the regional forester to join us and together we walked the property. I explained our management goals and plans for projects supporting our wildlife. We discussed timber stand make-up, tree removal, hinge cutting and clear cuts, all of which were already in our plan.
The next step was to forward copies of my management plan, maps and projects to the NRCS office. The NRCS team reviewed our plans and made a few suggestions on tree species removal.
I reviewed the contract and agreed to the draft plan. Currently, we are awaiting the final contract to sign and then we can start executing our Cerulean Warbler/WMP.
The contract states we must make the improvements agreed to in our management plan. They come and check our progress and provide professional advice.
I have three years in which to complete my improvements and they will fund our projects as they are completed. The funding is subject to annual congressional appropriation, but the estimated program funding for our plan is over $450 per acre of habitat improvement!
Do you know how many chainsaws, food plots and deer stands that will buy – a lot.
I can’t tell you how great these programs are for the landowner and the wildlife. And did I mention, we had already planned to complete these projects.
The Down Side
I can’t find one. The only negative I could find is if you sign up for a project you cannot complete and you don’t receive funding.
The wildlife benefit, the landowner benefits, and the government benefits from providing a viable conservation program for our nation’s future.
I guess you could have an issue with deciding on which new chainsaw to buy or which seed to put in your food plot?
Oh, and did I mention, you are helping a species which is threatened due to habitat loss. A species your kids and grandkids can enjoy and one day say – “We helped keep the Cerulean Warbler around.”
What are you waiting for? It is too easy to create this win-win situation for your wildlife and provide a little income as well.
Get started today – contact your local Farm Bureau, County Ag Extension or USDA office and ask how you can partner to benefit our wildlife.
If own property in the Appalachian Mountains, check out the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture.