FOREST LAND ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM
The spring/summer 2001 edition of this newsletter contained an article outlining the various cost share programs available to landowners to assist them in the management of their land assets. The article described the Stewardship Incentives Program (SIP), the Forestry Incentive Program (FIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
A new program has recently been implemented that combines SIP and FIP into one program known as the Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP). The objective of FLEP is to encourage long-term stewardship and management enhancement of non-industrial private forest lands for economic, environmental, and social benefits by sharing the cost of developing and carrying out an approved Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan. FLEP is an United States Department of Agriculture program; however, it is being administered by the forestry department of each respective state.
Undoubtedly, one of the primary benefits of FLEP is that it is actually funded. While SIP and FIP had been established programs for many years, the programs were not funded for a number of years. Therefore, there were seldom any cost share funds available for the landowner. However, there is current funding of FLEP and it appears that the program will continue to be funded in future years.
The program specifies 11 practices which could be eligible for cost share funding. They are as follows:
FLEP 1 - Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan Development: provides cost share funds to help pay for a new or revised forest management plan.
FLEP 2 - Reforestation and Regeneration: provides cost share funds for the purchase and planting of trees.
FLEP 3 - Forest Improvement: provides cost share funds for timber stand improvement work such as release cuttings, crop tree release, weeding, and pre-commercial thinning.
FLEP 4 - Agroforestry: provides cost share funds for
various agroforestry operations.
FLEP 5 - Water Quality Improvement and Watershed Protection: provides cost share funds for the establishment of permanent vegetation on critical areas such as riparian zones, the construction of water diversions, and other drainage measures such as grading, ditching, and waterbars.
FLEP 6 - Fish and Wildlife Habitat Improvement Practices: As the name implies, cost share funds are available for various practices that improve fish and wildlife habitat. However, the list of approved practices tend to be very state specific and dependent on individual state priorities as will be described later in this article.
FLEP 7 - Forest Health Practices: provides cost share funds for dealing with health threatening items such as insects and/or diseases.
FLEP 8 - Invasive Species Control: provides cost share funds for the elimination and/or control of invasive species from the forested landscape and to assist in the rehabilitation of properties impacted by invasive plant species.
FLEP 9 - Fire and Catastrophic Risk Reduction: provides cost share funds for the establishment of practices primarily to reduce the risk from wildfire and other catastrophic natural events in areas considered to be in significant danger.
FLEP 10 - Wildfire and Catastrophic Event Rehabilitation:
provides cost share funds to assist landowners whose properties have been
impacted by wildfire or other catastrophic natural events.
FLEP 11 - Special Practices: provides cost share funds for additional practices such as recreational trails and aesthetic enhancement, not specifically addressed in FLEP practices 1-10.
The FLEP practices listed above were established at the national level. However, each state was required to establish a list of priorities and determine specifics as to what is funded and to what degree as well as to assess priority levels. For example, the State of New York offers a significantly higher cost share funding amount for the development of the Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan (FLEP-1) than does the State of Vermont. Conversely, the State of Vermont offers cost share funds for significantly more wildlife habitat enhancement practices (FLEP-6) than does the State of New York. These differences are a reflection of the priority level given to each FLEP practice by each respective state.
While there are many practices eligible for cost share funds, the reality of the situation is that the amount of funding dollars is a finite number. Therefore, one the state receives all of the applications for cost share funds, each application is given a rating based on the priority ranking of the respective FLEP practice. For example, in the State of Vermont, Forest
Stand Improvement (FLEP-3) has a higher priority than Reforestation and Regeneration (FLEP-2). Therefore, an application for FLEP-3 will have a higher score than an application for FLEP-2 and in all likelihood, the FLEP-3 application will receive cost share funds before the FLEP-2 application. Once all of the applications are scored, cost share funds are allocated starting with the highest score and working down the list until all the cost share money is completely allocated. Therefore, it usually behooves the landowner to include high priority practices on the same application with low priority practices in order to get the highest priority rating. For some states this grading system is done at the state level, while for others it is done at the county level, with each county having a dedicated funding amount to be used strictly within the county.
Obviously, because this is a government program, it is not a "free ride". There are a couple of stipulations that the landowner must agree to in order to receive the cost share funds; however, these stipulations are minimal when compared to other state and federal programs. The first stipulation is that the landowner must agree to maintain the cost-shared practices for 10 years after the practice is completed. Failure to do so would require the landowner to return the cost share funds. The second stipulation is that the landowner must have an approved Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan (FLEP-1) in place prior to receiving approval for the other FLEP practices.
It would appear to be logical, that for any landowner contemplating the development of a forest management plan or updating a forest management plan, he/she apply for cost share funds to help offset the cost of the management plan. The majority of forest management plans will meet the requirements of the Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan with minor alterations. The 10 year requirement described above does not really affect the management plan in that once the management plan is written, the practice is complete. There is no requirement that the management plan be followed for 10 years in order to receive the cost share funds for the management plan. Additionally, by submitting the Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan, the landowner becomes eligible for cost share funds for other FLEP practices. While these funds may not be needed in the near future, having an approved Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan on file will allow for flexibility as more cost share funds become available. One of the primary drawbacks of the current FLEP program is that the window for submitting applications for cost share funds tend to be very
Forest management is a long term process with an occasional need for a short term expense. With the dramatic rise in land values and the increased taxes that accompany these higher land values, it is becoming more and more difficult and expensive to properly manage a woodlot for timber products. The Forest Land Enhancement Program is an opportunity for landowners to improve the rate of return of their investment and provide some relief to the cost burden of owning the asset. Please contact your nearest NEFCo forester for more information concerning the Forest Land Enhancement Program.