By Ginger Kopp, Minnesota NRCS Staff Forester. Updated March 2013.
One Million Dollars available to Minnesota Forest Landowners
The Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Service 2013 EQIP State-wide Forestry Initiative has $1 million available to forest landowners who want to implement forest practices in their woodlands. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is available to forest landowners with as little as 1 acre of forestland or woodland. There is no requirement to own or manage agricultural lands, pasturelands or grazing lands to qualify for EQIP.
Forest Management Plan Requirement
A forest management plan is necessary to qualify for program payments on implementing forest practices. A Forest Stewardship Plan or any forest management plan may qualify. Any existing plan that meets NRCS’s forest management plan criteria will enable the forest landowner to immediately apply to EQIP for implementing the forest practices in their plan.
Landowners who do not already have a Forest Stewardship Plan or a forest management plan can apply to have a plan completed through a certified and registered Technical Service Provider (TSP). Financial assistance is available through EQIP to hire a TSP for plan development. Program payments are available only if no previous plan exists for the woodlands or an existing plan needs to be updated to meet NRCS’s plan criteria. Only after the plan is developed and meets NRCS’s planning criteria can a new EQIP application be submitted for implementing the forest practices in the plan. Another option for obtaining a plan is to hire a Forest Stewardship Plan Preparer.
Other Eligibility Requirements (Owner, Land and Practices)
Other eligibility requirements include the owner, the land and the practices. Owner eligibility consists of income limits, proof of land ownership, and an active interest in the land. Having “an active interest” refers to having a forest management plan as explained above.
The land, or in this case the forest, needs to have a documented natural resource concern which means that at least one of five natural resources (soil, water, air, plants or animals) needs improvement. For example you may have invasive species in your forest, or erosion and excess sediment from nearby cropland creates a need for a riparian forest buffer. An NRCS or SWCD employee or a TSP will determine if you have a natural resource concern on your land.
Recommended forest practices in the forest management plan must be on the EQIP docket to be eligible for program payment. Practices on the docket include tree planting, site preparation, forest stand improvement, brush management, herbaceous weed management, riparian forest buffers, red and white pine establishment, oak savannah establishment, prescribed burning, and windbreak planting.
Screening and Ranking Applications
All applications will go through a screening and ranking process at the state level to prioritize the applications. The highest prioritized applications are those for a forest management plan. Those applications will be funded as monies are available. High priority applications are those from established Landscape Stewardship Areas (click map for larger version). Medium priority applications are the rest of the state. High and Medium applications are ranked according to a scoring system and allocated payments by score.
EQIP is a continuous application program; you may submit an application at any time. There are 2 more ranking periods in 2013, ending March 15 and April 19. Applications must be received by those dates to be ranked in that period. Corresponding award dates are March 30 and June 1. Soon after these dates landowners who are approved receive letters notifying them of their funding.