December 14, 2015
Landowners in north and west Alabama have until Jan. 15, 2016, to apply for assistance through two U.S. Department of Agriculture forestry initiatives.
Ben Malone, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said farmers in 22 north Alabama counties may qualify for assistance in restoring shortleaf pine forests.
“North Alabama landowners will be able to help the ecosystem make a rebound by supporting the shortleaf pine on their land,” Malone said. “Our hope is that this first round of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative (SPI) in Alabama will lead to more support for the effort.”
According to USDA, shortleaf pine acreage has declined by 50 percent during the past 30 years. The SPI was created in 2013 to address multiple threats affecting the shortleaf pine ecosystem.
Eligible north Alabama counties are Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, Morgan, Marion, St. Clair, Talladega, Walker and Winston.
Meanwhile, limited resource landowners in 11 west Alabama counties may apply for forestry assistance through a Conservation Innovation Grant.
Malone said assistance with forestry technologies, technical support and market access is being provided by a partnership that includes NRCS, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC) and the Limited Resource Landowners Educational and Assistance Network (LRLEAN). In the last two fiscal years, the program funded 130 contracts in the 11-county area.
“This partnership has been a success and we believe these investments help strengthen rural communities one landowner at a time,” said Malone. “Land returned to healthy forests will have beneficial conservation and environmental impacts for years to come.”
Although applications are accepted all year, producers should apply by Jan. 15 to ensure consideration for 2016 funding.
Eligible counties are Bullock, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Wilcox.
Rick Oates of the Alabama Farmers Federation said the two programs will help replant land in forests.
“Landowners should take advantage of these great opportunities provided by federal agencies to help ensure the sustainability of our forests,” said Oates, Federation Forestry Division director. “They will help landowners better manage their land and provide forests for future generations.”
Both the Conservation Innovation Grant and Shortleaf Pine Initiative are funded, in part, through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
For more information about either program, contact a local NRCS field office. A complete listing of offices is available online at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.