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Partnership project offers incentives for forest management

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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 Forests Reserve Program.

Participating 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 HFRP offers financial assistance in the form of easement payments for specific conservation actions on private forest and tribal lands. Participants can opt for 30-year term or permanent easement options and a 30-year contract is available 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.

“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,” said Virginia State Conservationist Jack Bricker. “The restored and protected woodlands promote biodiversity of plant and animal populations, helping threatened or endangered species like the golden-winged warbler, a focal species for Virginia.”

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 May 31, 2020, 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.

At this time, all project inquiries should be made by phone or email. 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.

Find your local USDA service center. Learn more about HFRP and other Farm Bill programs at