The Natural Resource Conservation Service, a branch of the US Department of Agriculture, works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance designed to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals that result in productive lands and healthy ecosystems. Using Farm Bill funds, the NRCS provides federal cost-share funding to private forest landowners for a variety of resource concerns through the following programs:
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to forest landowners through contracts up to a maximum term of ten years in length. These contracts provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on non-industrial private forestland.
Owners/managers of eligible land in forest production who have a natural resource concern on the land may participate in EQIP. In Pennsylvania, EQIP is also used to provide support for Forest Stewardship (CAP106) Plans. Applicants for EQIP funding for management practices are more likely to receive funding if they have first obtained an approved forest management plan (a Forest Stewardship, Tree Farm, or NRCS Cap106 Plan).
Wildlife Habitat Improvement Fund (WHIP) is a voluntary program available for conservation-minded landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on agricultural land, non-industrial private forest land, and Indian land. WHIP is a voluntary approach to improving wildlife habitat. The Natural Resources Conservation Service administers WHIP to provide both technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. PA NRCS has the following priorities:
- Establishment of native grasses and forbs
- Improvement of wetland habitat
- Stream Habitat and Stream Corridor Management, including dam removal
- Early Successional Habitat Development
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) encourages land stewards to improve their conservation performance by installing and adopting additional activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing activities on agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land.
If you plan to apply, you may find the Headwaters RC&D site helpful.
Your DCNR Service Forester and the National Resource Conservation Service can help you navigate the application process for any of these programs. NRCS maintains offices across the state as part of the USDA Service Centers, single locations where you can access the services of NRCS, the Farm Service Agency and the Rural Development agencies. Find your local NCRS office address and contact info.