The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new program last month offering financial incentives to forest landowners. This program, the Forest Management Incentive (FMI), makes $12 million available to help cover the cost of forest management practices like tree thinning, prescribed burning, and shrub planting. Forest landowners must have land currently enrolled in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to participate.
Signed into law 35 years ago, CRP is a voluntary land conservation program designed to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat on agricultural lands. Approximately 2 million acres of forest lands are enrolled in CRP programs. While they represent less than 10% of total CRP acres, those 2 million acres hold great promise for wildlife. “FMI will help landowners regain important habitat for bobwhite and other wildlife” said Jessica McGuire of Quail Forever. “CRP [forest] stands offer important habitat connectivity for a vulnerable bird in open agricultural landscapes.”
“The CRP tree planting programs of the late 1980’s and 90’s impacted millions of acres across the Southeast,” said Breck Carmichael, a Wildlife Biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “While they removed highly erodible acres from annual tillage and crop production, without continued management, tree canopies ultimately closed on these vast acreages. The result was a decline in wildlife habitat value, particularly for species like bobwhite quail and numerous ground nesting songbirds. FMI has the potential to restore many of these areas to high quality habitat by opening up the canopy and allowing ground cover to return. Thinning also benefits the timber through enhanced diameter growth and less susceptibility to pine beetle infestation.”
Forest landowners interested in participating in FMI or needing more information should contact their local USDA Service Center: https://www.farmers.gov/service-center-locator.
Headquartered at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture/Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is a science and habitat-based initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate bobwhite quail recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor to restore wild bobwhites on a landscape scale. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, 25 state wildlife agencies, the Joe Crafton Family Endowment for Quail Initiatives, the University of Tennessee, Roundstone Native Seed, and Lotek.