NRCS EQIP Program

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was created in 1996 and has grown in popularity and funding. EQIP is NRCS’ principal program for delivering conservation assistance to private landowners. New Farm Bill legislation places a renewed emphasis on the value of trees on agricultural land. EQIP offers technical and financial support to establish and manage forest land as part of a successful and sustainable conservation operation.

Benefits - local and global - include improved wildlife habitat and biodiversity as well as water and air quality improvements. Forestry practices described below, and others, can be selected and installed after developing a conservation plan designed to address specific site resource concerns. For Illinois operations, the following list describes some of the most common and successful forestry conservation practices.

Forest Management Plan (Practice/Activity Code 106)
An FMP is a site-specific plan developed for clients by a Technical Service Provider, and addresses one or more resource concerns on land where forestry-related conservation activities or practices will be planned and applied. Practices often included in a Forest Management Plan are designed around the client’s objectives to address various natural resource concerns like:
  • Forest health
  • Protection of soil quality & condition
  • Forest productivity
  • Water quality
  • Wildlife habitat
Forest Stand Improvement (Conservation Practice Standard 666)
Use of Forest Stand Improvement techniques helps landowners manage species composition, stand structure, and stocking by removing selected trees and understory vegetation. Forest Stand Improvement can also address invasive and exotic species in forestland when identified as a resource concern. Management practices can directly:
  • Increase forest product quantity, quality & restore natural plant communities
  • Improve vigor; initiate forest stand regeneration
  • Achieve desired levels--crop tree stocking & density and increase carbon storage
  • Reduce potential damage from wildfire, pests, & moisture stress
  • Improve aesthetics, recreation, & wildlife habitat
Prescribed Burning (Conservation Practice Standard 338)
Burning can be an effective tool to meet specific forestland and site preparation management objectives. Frequency and intensity should be closely assessed and weighed against resource concerns and management objectives of the site. Under proper conditions, prescribed burns can:
  • Achieve proper site preparation
  • Control undesirable vegetation & plant diseases
  • Remove slash & debris
  • Reduce wildfire hazards
  • Improve wildlife habitat
  • Enhance seedling production
  • Restore & maintain ecological sites
Upland Wildlife Management (Conservation Practice Standard 645)
The Upland Wildlife Management practice offers several techniques to treat upland wildlife habitat concerns identified during conservation planning. One example of forestland application for wildlife management is creation of a transitional zone of shrubs, vines and herbaceous vegetation that lies between forestland and an adjacent land use. Transitional zones can be effectively incorporated into forest management systems through Woodland Edge Feathering.

Tree/Shrub Site Preparation (Conservation Practice Standard 490)
Cropland or grassland sites differ from forestland sites, which can dictate site preparation needs and requirements. With proper site preparation, landowners can treat areas and improve site conditions in order to successfully establish woody plants. Considerations include:
  • Type of establishment planned – natural regeneration or artificial planting
  • Type of equipment used, set-up & maintenance costs
  • Site preparation method /combination of methods needed - mechanical, chemical, burning
  • Identification & protection of onsite cultural resources
  • Cover crop needs
Tree/Shrub Establishment (Conservation Practice Standard 612)
Trees/Shrub establishment introduces woody plants to an area by planting seedlings or cuttings, direct seeding, or natural regeneration. Once established, woody plants provide wildlife habitat, potential forest products, and long-term erosion control. They also improve air and water quality, sequester carbon, and enhance the aesthetics of an area. Considerations include:
  • Suitable species selection
  • Type & purpose of stock
  • Planting density/rate for intended purpose
  • Size & quality of stock/seed
  • Appropriate site preparation needs
  • Continued control of plant/weed competition following establishment
Access Control (Conservation Practice Standard 472)
The Access Control practice offers an effective forestry management tool that provides temporary or permanent exclusion of animals, people, vehicles and/or equipment from an area in order to apply, maintain or install planned conservation practices or measures. One commonly used EQIP forestry application for proper Access Control is the physical construction of a barrier fence to exclude livestock from damaging the forest application area.

Riparian Forest Buffer (Conservation Practice Standard 391)
Riparian Forest Buffers consist predominantly of trees and shrubs planted adjacent to and upslope from permanent streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands and areas with ground water recharge. Riparian Forest Buffers are created for various purposes and benefits which can:
  • Create shade to lower water temperatures for aquatic organisms
  • Create wildlife habitat & establish wildlife corridors
  • Reduce sediment, organic material, nutrients & pesticides in surface runoff
  • Provide a harvestable crop of timber & fiber
  • Provide protection against scour erosion within the floodplain
  • Restore natural riparian plant communities

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