Conservation cost share applications are being accepted now through Dec. 1, 2006 at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices throughout California. Two cost share programs are available to assist those interested in making voluntary improvements to natural resources.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) are popular conservation programs offering technical and financial assistance to those who wish to make environmental enhancements on land they own or manage.
"These programs offer financial assistance to complement conservation planning and technical assistance," says NRCS State Conservationist Ed Burton. "NRCS and its partners use these programs to help landowners plan and implement stewardship to achieve long-term improvements in productivity and sustainability of the land while complying with or getting ahead of regulations."
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a broad-ranging program that typically pays 50% of the cost related to improvements in soil, water, air, range and wildlife habitat on farms and ranches. It can share the cost of water conservation, integrated pest management, nutrient management, air quality improvements, rangeland management, manure management and more. Assistance can be in the form of structures and conservation "hardware" such as irrigation or manure management facilities as well as incentives payments for proper management to achieve environmental benefits. In 2006 California granted 1700 EQIP contracts for almost $48 million.
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is open to agricultural and non-agricultural landowners and managers. Eligible lands include private, Tribal, and limited state and local government lands. WHIP offers 5-10 year contracts for 75% cost share on environmental improvements on land that supplies habitat for upland wildlife, wetland wildlife, threatened and endangered species, fish, and other types of wildlife. An emphasis is given to habitat for declining or important native species and for improving wildlife habitat degraded by invasive species. In 2006 California allocated $865,000 in WHIP funds.
Applications are ranked based on scores reflecting their environmental benefit to national, statewide and locally identified resource priorities as well as a cost efficiency calculation. A more detailed explanation of local goals and ranking process can be found at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/.
Applicants are encouraged to begin the process early to avoid unforeseen delays and assure their application can be considered for funding this year.