Multi-state forest preservation program includes Southwest Virginia
If a tree falls in a forest through neglect or improper management, does it really impact the planet?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes, and it’s all tied to a little thing called greenhouse gases. On average, an acre of eastern hardwoods sequesters 85 tons of CO2 equivalent. If you multiply that number by hundreds of trees, the global impact becomes readily apparent.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to support sustainable forests and carbon market development in targeted areas of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky through the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP). The HFRP offers financial assistance in the form of easement payments for specific conservation actions on private forest and tribal lands.
Interested landowners develop a carbon forest project with TNC and get assistance with carbon credit development and marketing as well as potential additional income from the sale of those credits. The restored and protected forests also promote biodiversity of plant and animal populations, helping threatened or endangered species like the golden-winged warbler, a focal species for Virginia.
HFRP offers 30-year term and permanent easement options as well as a 30-year contract for tribal lands. USDA pays 75 percent of the value of land enrolled in 30-year easements, plus 75 percent of the average cost of the approved conservation practices. Landowners opting for permanent easements can receive 100 percent of the easement value of the enrolled land as well as priority in the ranking process.
“Improving forest management on a regional scale is a win for landowners and the environment,” said Virginia State Conservationist Jack Bricker. “Integrating an emerging voluntary forest carbon market with HFRP supports local economies and fits seamlessly into our new five-year initiative to improve forest health in Appalachia.”
Virginia is offering HFRP through a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project with TNC in the following counties: Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise and Wythe.
Eligible landowners should submit applications on or before Dec. 30, 2019, to be eligible for fiscal year 2020 funding. All HFRP applicants must provide proof of ownership, and operators (tenants) must provide written concurrence from the landowner of tenancy for the HFRP restoration agreement period.
To apply or get more information, contact TNC representatives Steve Lindeman or Greg Meade (276-676- 2209), NRCS Easement Program Manager Diane Dunaway (804-287-1634) or the NRCS field offices serving eligible counties.
Learn more about HFRP and other Farm Bill programs at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/.