STILLWATER—The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) invites farmers and ranchers to visit their local NRCS field office and apply for participation in conservation initiatives designed to restore landscapes, improve wildlife habitat and increase energy efficiency. Applications are due April 21.
Part of NRCS’s flagship conservation program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the four initiatives are:
Joint Chief’s Landscape Restoration Partnership which assists private landowners with creating more resilient, open woodland structures to improve water quality and quantity, improve wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire losses and enhance economic development in chronically impoverished counties.
“Forests are a critical component of ecosystem and community health in some parts of Oklahoma,” Said Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist for NRCS in Oklahoma. “By assisting landowners with forest management, we can build resiliency to a whole range of factors for years to come.”
Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative which helps ranchers remove invasive plants and adopt grazing management systems that provide habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken while sustaining adequate forage for livestock. An iconic bird of the prairie, the current range for the prairie-chicken is reduced to relatively small and scattered areas totaling about 17 percent of its historic range.
“The great thing about this type of wildlife conservation is the things that benefit native wildlife also benefit ranching operations. Good prairie-chicken habitat means healthy rangeland with fewer invasive plants and better grazing opportunities” said O’Neill.
Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) for Monarch Butterfly which provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve or create habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. The initiative offers conservation practices such as prescribed fire, brush and cedar management and prescribed grazing.
“Pollinators are an indispensable component of agriculture and functioning ecosystems. Taking care of these animals should be a priority on any farm or ranch, especially since the practices that benefit pollinators can also benefit an operation’s bottom line,” said O’Neill.
On-Farm Energy Initiative which enables farms and ranches to save money and resources through development of an Agricultural Energy Management Plan followed by assistance to put in place necessary system and equipment upgrades.
“Making farms more energy efficient means farms that are addressing more natural resource concerns and are more sustainable over time,” said O’Neill.
EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to help plan and implement conservation practices that address priority local and state resource concerns. Producers must submit a complete program application, establish “farm records”, and other documentation to support eligibility to be considered for financial assistance through EQIP. Step-by-step assistance can be found at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.
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