Private landowners of forest and rangeland are important partners in achieving the goal of the Conservation Lands Network. There are numerous programs that offer technical and financial assistance to landowners for stewardship activities on private lands. The following is a partial listing of these programs.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers several voluntary programs that provide technical assistance and/or cost sharing to farmers and ranchers. Several of the programs require the property owners to sign a contract or cooperative agreement for 5 to 10 years to insure that the improvements are maintained for a specified period after completion.
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This program encourages producers to address resource concerns by providing funding to support existing land stewardship as well as additional conservation activities. The program employs 5-year contracts to provide annual payments to support good land management. CSP provides opportunities to both recognize excellent stewards and deliver valuable new conservation.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP assists farmers and ranchers who want to address natural resource concerns with technical and financial assistance. EQIP provides cost-share funding to promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. Eligible projects include rangeland management activities such as cross-fencing, spring development, pipelines, tanks, troughs, prescribed grazing, water conservation projects such as irrigation improvements, and wildlife habitat improvement (pond restoration, habitat management). Contracts for maintaining these improvements run from 1 to 10 years in length.
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). Another voluntary program, WHIP assists landowners to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private land. Through WHIP, NRCS provides both technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to landowners and others to develop upland, wetland, riparian, and aquatic habitat areas on their property. Landowners may enroll privately owned land, federal land when the primary benefit is on private or tribal land, state and local government land on a limited basis, and Tribal land. The program provides cost-share payments to landowners under agreements that are usually 5 to 10 years in duration, depending upon the types of practices to be installed.
Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). The GRP offers landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance grasslands on their property. The program emphasizes support for grazing operations, plant and animal biodiversity, and grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs under the greatest threat of conversion. The program offers several enrollment options: permanent easements; 10-year, 15-year, or 20-year rental agreements; and restoration agreements which may be used in conjunction with any easement or rental agreement. NRCS and the Farm Service Agency coordinate the implementation of GRP.
US Fish and Wildlife Service
US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Wildlife. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is a voluntary program offering technical and financial assistance to landowners who want to improve fish and wildlife habitat on their lands. The program emphasizes the restoration of historic ecological communities for the benefit of native fish and wildlife in conjunction with the desires of private landowners. Assistance ranges from informal advice on the design and location of potential restoration projects, to designing a project and funding up to 50% of the implementation costs. A cooperative agreement is developed between the Service and the landowner that requires the landowner to maintain the restored or improved site for a minimum of 10 years. Projects that receive the highest priority for funding are those that provide direct benefits to migratory birds, anadromous fish, and threatened and endangered species.
Habitat restoration and enhancement projects may include, but are not limited to, restoring wetland hydrology; installing fencing along riparian areas to exclude livestock; rehabilitating in-stream aquatic habitats; removing nonnative plants; planting native grasslands; and planting native trees, shrubs, and other plants to provide food and shelter for fish and wildlife in degraded habitats.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or CAL FIRE offers programs and funding to improve stewardship of forestlands.
California Forest Stewardship Program (FSP). The FSP, a joint program of CAL FIRE and the USDA Forest Service, encourages good stewardship of forests and oak woodlands, and operates on a community or watershed scale. The program provides technical information and assistance to landowners to promote sound forest management, and assists communities in solving forest-related issues.
California Forest Improvement Program (CFIP). CFIP provides financial assistance, in years when it is funded, and is aimed at improving the economic value and environmental quality of forestlands. CFIP matches up to 75% of costs for private lands including erosion control, revegetation, road rehabilitation, and installation of structures such as waterbars, rocked crossings, etc. to reduce soil erosion and stream sedimentation. CFIP also funds fish and wildlife habitat improvement, including creation of corridors and openings, planting oaks or riparian species, installing exclusion fencing along watercourses and wetlands, and stream restoration projects.
Forest Legacy Program (FLP). To help maintain the integrity and traditional uses of private forestlands, the FLP promotes the use of permanent conservation easements. The state program works in coordination with the federal Forest Legacy Program.
California Department of Fish and Game
Private Lands Management Program (PLM). The PLM was initiated to offer landowners economic incentives to manage their lands for the benefit of wildlife. Landowners who enroll in this “ranching for wildlife” program consult with biologists to make biologically sound habitat improvements that benefit wildlife, like providing water sources, planting native plants for food, and making brush piles for cover. In return for these habitat improvements, landowners can charge fees for wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing.