Cost Share Programs

In an ideal world, we would all own timberlands which cost nothing to own or maintain but would quickly grow high quality timber.  Unfortunately life doesn't work this way.  Many of you have had forest management plans written for your forests, and within those plans there will be an occasional recommendation which is a cost to the landowner.  For example, conducting timber stand improvement work or correcting erosion problems will usually have a short term cost with the intent of a long term gain.  It is often a very difficult decision for a landowner to commit to an expense when the return will not be realized for a number of years.  It is also not uncommon for a landowner to not have the finances to invest in improving a woodlot.

The United States Government has established a number of programs to assist landowners in the management of their timberlands.  Many of the programs provide funds to the landowner to help offset the costs of land management, timber production, wildlife habitat improvement, and recreational enhancement.  Like the "current use" programs described in the Spring/Summer 2000 edition of this newsletter, cost share programs are not a free ride, but they are worth looking into as part of the process of active land management.

Below is a listing and brief description of the various cost share programs:

Stewardship Incentives Program (SIP)

  • Provides cost share funds at various rates for timber production, wildlife habitat enhancement, and recreational improvements.

  • Administered by the Farm Services Agency (FSA) and the respective state forestry department.

  • Has not been funded since the 1998 ice storm.

  • Management plan must be written which can be cost shared.

  • To receive cost share for other activities, management plan must be on file at FSA.

  • For activities where cost share funds are received, the funded activity must be maintained for at least 10 years or the cost share funds must be returned.

  • Funding is determined based on a priority list established by FSA and forestry department.

Forestry Incentives Program (FIP)

  • Provides cost share funds at various rates for tree planting and timber stand improvement work.

  • Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

  • Has been funded in the recent past.

  • Management plan must be written and approved by the State forester.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)

  • Provides cost share funds at various rates for wildlife habitat establishment and/or improvement.

  • Administered by NRCS.

  • Funding based on priority list established by administrator.

  • Currently not funded.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

  • A combination of the Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP) and the Water Quality Incentives Program (WQIP).

  • Administered by the FSA.

  • Requires a conservation plan.

  • Offers a 5 to 10 year contract of incentive payments for up to 75% of certain conservation practices.

  • Used primarily to control waste runoff from manure pits but can be used for erosion control on skid trails.

State Programs

  • Some states have their own programs funded through various methods such as hunting license fees.

It appears that another program is on the horizon that will eliminate the alphabet soup of current programs  This program is called the Environmental Forestry Incentives Program (EFIP).  Essentially, this program will combine all of the other programs under one umbrella to be administered by FSA.  This program will allow Congress to appropriate funds for one program rather than the many different programs currently in place.


Repair work eligible for cost share funds.

While this approach appears to be logical, there is some concern within the forestry community.  Foresters are concerned that forestry activities will be placed low on the priority list of fundable activities, and that other activities such as manure control will receive the bulk of the  cost share funds.  This concern is a bit premature in that the program has not been officially established at the writing of this article, but is something to keep an eye on.

There are programs which can assist landowners in the long term active management of their land.  However, certain activities take priority over others.  Applying for the cost share funds does take time, and there is no guarantee that the activity will be funded.  Usually a phone call to the appropriate agency can answer the question as to the likelihood of funding, but this approach is not always fail safe.  I have personally worked with a landowner who received verbal positive feedback concerning approval of cost share funding for a management activity.  The landowner, concerned about the narrow window of opportunity for tree planting, committed to the activity financially by ordering seedlings and conducting site preparation operations, and then having the cost share funding not approved.  This denial was due to an unusually high number of requests for funding related to activities with a higher priority rating than the landowner's tree planting activity.  This situation was obviously not the fault of the controlling agency, but exhibits the need for extensive pre-planning and coordination.

Forest management is a long term process with an occasional need for short term expense.  Cost share programs are potential sources for reducing short term expenses and should be explored as part of your active forest management program.

- Tony Lamberton
Manchester Center Manager


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- Last updated on 13 February 2003 -
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