What do you hope to accomplish on your land? Are you an avid hunter looking to enhance the land for wildlife habitat or are you cultivating the land for timber harvesting or crop production? Are you wanting to maintain the natural environment by removing invasive species or are you wanting to continue your family’s legacy for the next generation? The goals you set for your property matter as the choices you make today will directly impact its next inhabitants, whether that’s your children or a flock of turkeys.
If you haven’t lately, I recommend walking through your property and taking note of what is and isn’t working as well as what you enjoy about your land and what you don’t. From there sit down and think of realistic goals you and your fellow stakeholders, whether that be your spouse, children, siblings, parents or friends, hope to accomplish over the next five, 10 or 15 years. Consider what type of equipment you’ll need and the labor intensity of accomplishing those goals. Ask yourself if you have access to the necessary equipment and labor or if you’ll need to make a larger financial investment such as hiring labor or purchasing equipment.
If you find yourself uncertain on what to do or if you can afford what you’re hoping to accomplish, additional technical and financial assistance are available to you. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture that assists producers with conservation planning and natural resource assessment. Natural resources are defined by NRCS to include soil, water, air, plants, animals, energy and human considerations. Conservation plans are developed and implemented to protect, conserve and/or enhance natural resources. Technical assistance such as conservation planning is a free service provided by your local NRCS office in Cadillac. You’ll work with a NRCS soil conservationist, district conservationist and/or engineer, as well as NRCS partners such as the Missaukee Conservation District, Wexford Conservation District and/or North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (NCCISMA). NRCS will design a conservation plan addressing natural resource concerns on your property that also makes sense for your operation. A conservation plan is a record of your decisions as a landowner. It notes what practices you intend to install on the property and a timeline for their implementation.
NRCS also provides financial assistance to eligible producers through two Farm Bill programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program. EQIP is available for all types of agricultural operations including field crops, specialty crops, organic farms, confined livestock, grazing operations and private forestland. EQIP addresses specific natural resource concerns on the property from developing a forest management plan to designing an animal waste storage facility; there are a variety of practices that can be funded and implemented through EQIP.
CSP is designed to help producers build on their existing conservation efforts by elevating their entire operation to a high conservation standard. Producers interested in CSP commit to a five-year contract with NRCS with the potential to renew for an additional five years. The contract provides producers with an annual payment to implement and maintain conservation practices on their land such as planting cover crops or tree planting.
EQIP and CSP are competitive programs; producers are welcome to apply, but there is no guarantee their application will be accepted. If an application is not accepted, your local NRCS office will work with you to reapply the following year. Applications for both programs are accepted year-round, but applications are typically chosen for EQIP by late spring and for CSP by late summer each year. This means if you are interested in applying for either CSP or EQIP, we recommend you reach out to your local NRCS office this summer or fall before the snow flies. This ensures that they’ll be able to walk your property with you assessing what natural resource concerns exist on your property, as well as have plenty of time to develop a conservation plan that meets your operation’s goals and needs.
If you would like additional information regarding NRCS technical and/or financial assistance, you can contact the NRCS office in Cadillac at 231-775-7681, extension 3.
Lynnette is the CTAI Soil Conservationist Technician for Missaukee Conservation District and is based in Wexford County. You can contact her at 231-775-7681 ext. 3 or email@example.com.