The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest more than $250,000 this fiscal year, to be paid out to forest landowners in 10 counties, including Douglas, Howell, Ozark and Texas.
The USDA Joint Chief’s Landscape Restoration Partnerships to Restore Glades and Woodlands in the Central Ozarks (JCLRP) funds will be made available though the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
According to District Conservationist Paul McDonald with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in West Plains, the funds re meant to help private forest landowners restore their forests by cutting down excess trees in order to improve timber production, restore native wildlife habitats and improving the general local environment.
“There’s no lot size requirement needed to apply for the program,” McDonald said. “We will go through a ranking period where we will determine which applications are the priority and then go from there.”
McDonald added that the U.S. Forest Service and the conservation service usually look at factors such as proximity to Mark Twain National Forest, removing invasive tree species such as the Callery pear tree and environmental factors.
After the applications have been ranked, then the forest and conservation services will meet with each landowner to determine the work to be done and enter into a three-year contract. He said that with limited funds and the high number of applicants, not everyone will be approved. High-priority jobs will be accepted first.
“The land owner will then either have to hire a contractor to do the work or do it themselves,” McDonald said. “And then at the end of the contract we will determine if the work had been done and then give the landowner payment for the work done.”
According to McDonald, the exact details of which lands will be priorities will be determined at a later date, but said there is a lot of work needed in many areas through the Ozarks.
“Missouri’s forests face numerous threats as we move forward in the 21st century,” said Acting State Conservationist Grover DePriest. “Through sound management and habitat restoration the threat can be reduced on private land at a local scale.”
DePriest hopes that partnering with private landowners and the Forest Service in the designated 10 counties will increase the program’s impact and provide benefits at the landscape scale.
In addition to the local counties, forest landowners in Phelps, Pulaski, Christian, Stone, Taney and Barry are also eligible. The 2020 EQIP sign-up period closes on Monday. Officials anticipate additional funds will be made available in 2021 and 2022.
Nationally, the FS and NRCS will invest more than $41 million this fiscal year through the JCLRP, funding 36 projects, including 16 new projects in 14 states.
For information on applying for the EQIP call the West Plains USDA Service Center at 256-7117 or go online to go.usa.gov/xEsyY.