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Conservation Corner

EQIP application deadlines announced

Mon, March 11, 2019

Look to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for conservation assistance on agricultural and forestland. NRCS has a long history of conservation planning with agricultural producers and forestry managers. We have the technical knowledge to develop a conservation plan for your resource concerns and NRCS has conservation programs to help you implement that plan.


The primary financial assistance program is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestland producers. To participate, producers can apply for EQIP throughout the year; however, Illinois NRCS has established two application deadlines for April 19, 2019 and May 17, 2019.  NRCS encourages producers to submit applications by one of the deadlines if they are interested in the program.


Hundreds of Illinois producers have successfully used EQIP to address natural resource issues on their farm. Some EQIP activities include installing structures to address gully erosion, improving pastureland diversity using interseeding techniques, and improving soil health by increasing organic matter with cover crops. A special Illinois funding pool also targets monarch butterflies by creating or improving monarch habitat with stands of milkweed and nectar plants.


These conservation practices can be completed through NRCS EQIP funding pools, such as grazing land operations, confined livestock operations, organic, monarch butterfly, and wildlife habitat, just to name a few. In addition to conservation practices, EQIP funds plan development, such as Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs), Grazing Plans, Drainage Water Management Plans, and more.


Producers interested in EQIP should submit a signed application (NRCS-CPA-1200 form) to the local NRCS field office. Applications submitted by April 19, 2019 and May 17, 2019 will be evaluated by NRCS staff for the funding period submitted.


Applicants must meet program eligibility requirements to participate in EQIP. Local NRCS field office staff will work with applicants to determine eligibility and answer ranking questions. If an application is ranked high enough to be funded, NRCS staff will work with each applicant to develop a contract.


EQIP is a voluntary conservation program available for agricultural producers and forestry producers. Through EQIP, NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices. For more information on EQIP, contact your local NRCS field office or visit


www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/il/programs/financial/eqip/

 

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Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project

Wed, January 23, 2019

USDA launched an initiative a few years ago to provide the precise food, plants, and habitat for Monarch Butterflies. Nationwide the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, will invest millions in this effort. 


Illinois is one of nine states that make up the Monarch’s migration route from central Mexico to Canada.  Illinois lies at the heart of their journey, making efforts here especially important. 


The Problem:

The key habitat and plant species that Monarch Butterflies require for food and reproduction have gradually disappeared from the landscape.  Here in Illinois, our prime soils and prime farmland are covered with crops—- corn, soybeans, and wheat.  But these crops mean nothing if we don’t leave room for special habitat gaps, creating diverse areas for Monarchs and other pollinator species so crucial to Ag production.


If every landowner, every farmer, every city, community, homeowner, school, and business dedicated some part of their land to the effort and planted a native milkweed species, we could create a more diverse landscape.  We can create a landscape where Monarchs can thrive.


The Program:


The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project will use funds from NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, EQIP.  With EQIP and NRCS, landowners can access both financial and technical assistance to voluntarily put conservation practices on the ground that support native milkweed plants and other early- to late-blooming nectar plants.  NRCS also has funds available to use on land already in the conservation easement program known as Wetland Reserve Easement or WRE.  These are lands already set aside for wildlife that can be further enhanced to provide for the specific needs of Monarch Butterflies.


  The Conservation Stewardship Program CSP is another federal program that can provide landowners with new options that support the creation of enhancements for Monarch habitat.


To learn more:
If you’d like to know more about the Illinois NRCS Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project or learn about other practices or plant species that can support pollinator habitat, contact your local NRCS office at your local USDA Service Center.


Resources and information are also available online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/monarchs.


Program applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking, and approval of eligible applications.  Right now, is a good time to start planning for Monarch Butterfly Habitat.

 

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Partnership puts turkeys back in NH

Wed, January 23, 2019

    A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) signed in August 2018 shows the commitment both organizations have to collaborate on future programs and activities, including wild turkey and habitat conservation projects, education and outreach and habitat restoration.


“The MOU really solidifies a great relationship we’ve had with conservation districts at the national and local level,” NWTF District Biologist Matt DiBona said. “The conservation districts have those great local relationships with landowners, and if you’re involved in wildlife habitat or conservation management, you can’t overlook that.”


NACD and NWTF have worked together through a number of national efforts, including the Forests in the Farm Bill coalition, and have collaborated with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and state forestry agencies to staff wildlife biologists and other positions to increase conservation delivery on private lands, including a planned position in New Hampshire and Vermont.


“Capacity is often a limiting factor in reaching landowners and getting projects on the ground,” DiBona said. “So, we’re really excited about that.”


In the meantime, NWTF is building on the past 20 years of collaboration with the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts (NHACD) to build turkey habitat and create accessible hunting property.


“The conservation districts are committed to wildlife habitat and working with landowners on technical assistance and taking the right steps for turkeys,” Cheshire County Conservation District Manager Amanda J.C. Littleton said. “Turkeys have come back with such a great success story, now they’re hunted in our region, which is great. The partnership has really been a positive impact on the environment.”


Wild turkeys had disappeared from the New Hampshire landscape completely, but in the 1970s, New Hampshire Fish and Game began transplanting turkeys back into the state. In the early 2000s, NWTF partnered with NHACD to subsidize wild turkey packets, a combination of more than 75 plants including fruit trees and shrubs, to sell to landowners through the districts’ annual tree and plant sales. Today, the turkey population is more than 40,000 and present in all counties.


“Seven of 10 counties participated in the turkey packet sales, and we’re enjoying the fruits of this,” NHACD Past President Linda Brownson said. “It’s a huge success story.”


The turkey population has increased to the point that hunters in Grafton County will be able to take two birds in the spring hunt along with one in the fall. NWTF’s 10-year Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative, established in 2012, is focused on conserving and enhancing wildlife habitat for turkeys while also working to introduce new people to hunting and opening access to more lands for public hunting. The partnership and MOU assist in that effort.


In Grafton County, the conservation district up until two years ago sold plants to the North Country Longspurs, a local chapter of the NWTF, for the group’s youth turkey hunt activities. Now conservation districts’ focus is shifting to pollinator plants, which also helps the NWTF mission and goals, DiBona said.


“The increasing importance of pollinator habitat is also a boon for turkey conservation. Not only does pollinator habitat provide forage for birds, bees and butterflies, but it also is good brooding habitat for young turkeys,” DiBona said. “When the birds hatch, the turkeys need to bring the poults (young turkeys) into a more open area with high insect content for the protein needed early on in development.”


Outreach and education is another area in which DiBona sees as an opportunity with New Hampshire conservation districts. He says about 70 percent of New Hampshire property is owned by private landowners.


“I think getting the word out to landowners regarding opportunities for managing their land for wildlife is one of the biggest things we can do to have an impact in the region,” DiBona said. “Whether it’s new landowners who have thought about it but haven’t gotten around to land management plans or organizing workshops to give landowners the tools and information they need to make those decisions. The MOU is really focused on where we have overlapping missions to help promote each other and to really be a resource to each other to promote work on private lands. Working as partners can have tremendous benefits.”


Here in Illinois we are taking applications for Farm Bill programs.  Still working at getting conservation on the land through the partial government shutdown.  If you are interested in improving or establishing wildlife habitat on your farm, contact your local USDA NRCS Service Center.  Conservation Planning is a year round activity and now’s the time to get started on a conservation plan to address the resource concerns on your farm.

 

 

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