The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Chippewa/Luce/Mackinac Conservation District partner together to bring a number of conservation programs to landowners in our district.
NRCS's natural resources conservation programs help people reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters. Public benefits include enhanced natural resources that help sustain agricultural productivity and environmental quality while supporting continued economic development, recreation, and scenic beauty.
NRCS first works one-on-one with landowners to develop a conservation plan that meets your goals and vision for the land. NRCS will come out and meet with you on your property, and help you identify issues and plan your land's future with hands-on, one-on-one service. If you choose to apply for a program, and the application is accepted at the state level, financial assistance can help with the costs from implementing those practices.
Here in the Sault Sainte Marie field office, we have David Chickering as the Conservation Technical Assistance Initiative (CTAI) Engineer to help assist with the engineering workload that may be associated with some of the practices. This position is made possible by the CLMCD, who in partnership with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), maintains a grant that funds the CTAI engineer's position. This position services the tri-county area. In addition, the conservation technician, Pat Carr, and the district conservationist, Madeleine Cantu, can also help landowners as they go through the planning and decision-making processes. Please remember that any help that NRCS or the district provides is 100% voluntary.
Here is a brief summary of available programs that NRCS has to offer:
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, and improved or created wildlife habitat.
Common practices that fall under EQIP include helping with livestock water needs, cross-fencing, waste storage facilities, pasture/crop management practices, forestry practices including assistance in obtaining a forest management plan that can be used toward the state's Qualified Forest Program (QFP), high tunnel (or "hoop house") over existing gardens, and many others. Please call with any questions if you think you might have a resource concern or issue on your property that you would like to address. If we can't help you, we can help direct you to the people that can.
Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)
This is very similar to EQIP but differs only in the financial assistance part. We can help you with any of the issues listed above without the need for the application/contracting process. However, it is worth noting that EQIP projects will have priority over CTA projects, due to workload management.
Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE)
The Wetland Reserve Easement program, which used to be the "Wetland Reserve Program" (WRP), focuses on wetland areas. Particularly, WRE targets those areas that historically would have been wetlands, but man has manipulated in the past. Typically, in this area, that means that furrows were put in to shed water off of hayland (and in some rare instances, cropland). Or, they were converted in some other manner. If it could successfully and effectively be restored, NRCS would then work toward reverting it to its historical state.
This easement program means that your land would have a permanent easement on it owned by the USDA, and there are certain restrictions that would apply over time for what a landowner can do on the property. For further details, please call the District Conservationist, Madeleine Cantu, at (906) 632-9611, extension 8054.
Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP)
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP) helps landowners maintain and improve their existing conservation systems, as well as adopt additional activities to address priority resource concerns. Participants get financial assistance for five years. The actual payment amount not only changes from application year to application year, but also depends on the activities and conservation system that is offered.
Have you ever looked across your property and thought about some land management goals you would like to take to the next level? Maybe we can help. No one knows more about your land than you do, and no one knows more about conservation than we do. Together we can develop a plan tailored to your land and your goals to help you increase productivity and protect the value of your land.
Whether you are looking to improve grazing conditions, increase crop yields, or develop wildlife habitat, we can custom design a CStP plan to help you meet those goals. We can help you schedule timely planting of cover crops, develop a grazing plan that will improve your forage base, implement no-till to reduce erosion or manage forested areas in a way that benefits wildlife habitat. If you are already taking steps to improve the condition of the land, chances are CStP can help you find new ways to meet your goals.
CStP is for working lands. It is the largest conservation program in the United States with more than 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled in CStP. Thousands of people voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation. Some of these benefits include:
Increased crop yields
Wildlife habitat population improvements
Increased resilience to weather extremes