The Conservation Districts of Larimer County, Big Thompson Conservation District (BTCD) and Fort Collins Conservation District (FCCD), are partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to bring private landowners the knowledge, resources, and funding necessary to manage natural resource concerns on their private property. This partnership helps deliver a land-management philosophy that addresses multiple aspects of our forest, also known as ecosystem services, such as wildfire hazard reduction, water quality, erosion control, wildlife diversity, and many more. Using the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), provided by the Farm Bill, NRCS helps cover the costs of Forest Improvement efforts on private land. Since approximately 75% of land in the U.S. is privately owned, this investment into private land addresses the threats to our forests at a larger scale than we could if we just focused on public lands.
The Conservation Districts of Larimer County and the NRCS strive to restore forests to their historical state prior to human influence. Restoring our forests to a state that is more representative of how they were structured over 100 years ago, our forest land will have higher degrees of resilience to wildfire, bugs and diseases, droughts and floods, etc. When creating a forest improvement plan, we consider all of these ecosystem services to ensure we’re providing an all-inclusive and ecology-based management plan.
Since the mid-1800s, human influence on forestland has resulted in forests that are very different than those prior to settlement. In general, tree densities have increased and forests have become more uniform in age, species type, and structure (less variety in meadows, streams, etc.). As a result, diversity in forest habitats has declined over time. Since wildlife species require a variety of habitat types to thrive, forest diversity is critical to the success of wildlife populations. Insects and diseases can kill an entire forest when the trees do not reflect historical conditions. In addition, our highly dense forests lead to intense wildfires that travel far and wide, impacting human lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Am I eligible for cost-share through the EQIP?
The general eligibility requirements for EQIP are:
- You own or have control over non-industrial forest land
- You are in compliance with Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) requirements of earning less than $900,000 per year
- You are willing to allow NRCS to create an EQIP plan of operations for your forest improvement project
For full eligibility requirements, visit the NRCS website and find document 515.152 EQIP Eligibility Documentation Checklist.
What is an EQIP plan of operations?
An EQIP plan of operations is the basis of having an EQIP contract, and is required before you can even apply to the program. NRCS will help assess your resource concerns on your property, and build the plan of operations.
How can I apply for EQIP funding?
Go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted/ or you can call/visit your local NRCS field office at:
Farm Services Administration/NRCS Field Office
2150 Centre Avenue, Building A, Suite 116
Fort Collins, CO 80521
How are applications chosen?
EQIP applications are ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal. Certain factors are given higher weights, and the calculation of your project’s rank is done through an objective worksheet. Your NRCS District Conservationist will help with this portion of your application, and will be your contact regarding whether or not your project gets selected for EQIP funding.
What portion of costs does the EQIP cover?
The amount of money that EQIP will provide to conservation efforts depends on the work being done. EQIP can cover up to 75% of restoration costs, in some cases. Your Conservation Districts and NRCS District Conservationist will work hard to find other organizations or grants that will cover the rest of the costs, but there is no guarantee of 100% cost-coverage.
When does EQIP funding pay for my project?
If your EQIP project is accepted and funded, you are expected to pay for all conservation work being done on your land up-front. NRCS and Conservation District employees will be in frequent contact with you and the contractors doing the work on your land to ensure the plan of operations is being followed. Once the project is complete, your EQIP funding will be dispersed to you. You are expected to pay the Conservation District and contractors for their work, which will be outlined in your project contract before your project begins.
How long does it take to apply and find out if my project is funded?
EQIP applications are accepted throughout the year, but final submissions for projects are due by the 2nd week in January. Applicants will be notified within 2 months of the deadline through the NRCS District Conservationist whether or not their project is funded. If EQIP funding was not approved, your NRCS District Conservationist will work with you to determine the reasons why, and potentially reapply the following year. If EQIP funding was approved, you will start implementing your plan of operations in that year.
What if I am approved for funding, but I change my mind?
EQIP has a 3-year probation for land-owners who apply for EQIP, get approved, and then decide not to implement the plan.
Where can I get help with my EQIP application?
Step-by-step assistance can be found at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted/ or you can call/visit your local NRCS field office at:
Farm Services Administration/NRCS Field Office
2150 Centre Avenue, Building A, Suite 116
Fort Collins, CO 80521
How can the Conservation District Forester help with my project?
Your Conservation District Forester will help you with your EQIP project by:
- Creating an inventory of trees on your property to understand the current state of your forest
- Provide all forest-management-related materials required for you to submit your EQIP application
- Help hire contract-labor (loggers, weed control, etc.) for your project
- Ensure that contract laborers are adhering to the management plan
- Sign-off on your project progress to facilitate EQIP fund-delivery when all conservation practices are complete
What if I want to create a better habitat for a specific wildlife species?
Your Conservation District Forester can work with you to understand your goals and objectives for your property to ensure it aligns with the boundaries of NRCS restoration practices. As long as what you have in mind for your property doesn’t conflict with the requirements of the program, we can integrate your goals into your forest treatment.
How will this be beneficial to me?
Restoring your forest to its historic condition will make it more resilient to the threats of fire, insects and diseases. This resiliency will help preserve your forestland for future generations. In addition, your property value could increase and your insurance premiums could decrease based on the fact that you have actively mitigated fire threat to your trees and structures by creating a healthy stand of trees on your property.
Will this project keep my house safe from wildfire?
While the NRCS and Conservation District philosophy does not specifically address or guarantee the safety of your home in the event of a wildfire, restoring your forest to its historical structure may inherently provide wildland fire protection near and around your home because the forest itself will be resistant to the intense, destructive, and severe wildfires that we’ve seen on the Front Range over the last several years.
What other actions would help prevent severe wildfire damage?
Getting your neighbors involved is one of the best things we can do for our privately-owned forests. We can help an entire neighborhood apply for EQIP, enabling treatment to a much larger area of land and maximizing the benefits of a more resilient forest for many residents at a time.
How many trees will get cut down?
Depending on how dense your forest is now, the amount of trees that need to be removed to achieve historical standards could be a few to many. Before we submit your EQIP application, you will have a chance to visit other properties where treatment has been done. This will give you a good idea of how your property will look after treatment and help you understand our goals. Since many of us have grown up with very dense forests, it can be surprising to see how open a Ponderosa Pine forest should be, based on historical research. Once we are in the middle of a treatment, if you choose not to continue, you will not receive your EQIP funding and you will be liable for all costs incurred by the project. Your District Forester will do their best to help you visualize the effect to your land before you enter an EQIP application to ensure you understand, and are excited for, the results of your project.
How will the trees on my property be removed?
Generally, since tree stands are so dense that a chainsaw crew could not manage the treatment efficiently, we utilize the use of heavy mechanical equipment. We implement a full tree-removal technique, since leaving dense logs, branches, and slash will only increase the risk and intensity of severe wildfires. Large logs that can remain intact will be removed intact and will support the local lumber industry. Logs that are cut in pieces, branches, and slash can be dealt with in a variety of ways, which your District Forester will help identify and outline in your treatment plan (i.e. firewood, mulch, etc.).
What happens after logging work is done?
Since improper use of logging can have long-term impacts on a landscape, we strive to address those potential impacts immediately following a treatment. If temporary roads and bridges were installed to facilitate logging equipment, they will be taken out and the area will be restored to as close to its original condition as possible. Most Forest Improvement projects will be paired with weed control treatments to mitigate invasive species that usually follow a ground disturbance. These treatments will be built into your EQIP plan, and the cost-share funding will apply to these practices in addition to the forest improvement work.
How long does a project take to be completed?
The timeframe of your project depends on how large your treatment area is. Generally, we try to create plans that are achievable within 1-3 years. Your Conservation District Forester can help provide you with an estimate of how much can be done per year based on the size of your land and the intensity of forest improvement work that is required to meet historical forest conditions.
How many others have participated in this initiative?
This initiative is new to the Larimer County area, but Jefferson County has been executing this process on private land for approximately 4 years with outstanding results. In just one year after treatment, landowners are amazed by the regeneration of grasses, shrubs, and flowers. The Jefferson Conservation District has received great feedback from landowners regarding their completed projects and now have more demand for treatments than they have the capacity for.