Through efforts of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, Tennessee Division of Forestry, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are a variety of programs available for private landowners to get technical advice & financial assistance to conserve and enhance their land with wildlife in mind.
TWRA’s Farm Wildlife Habitat Program is a modestly funded cost-share program intended to complement and “fill in the gaps” in major conservation programs available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is used for qualified projects on lands not eligible for USDA funding, practices that complement existing habitat conversions already under a USDA contract, or assist a landowner to begin implementing habitat projects in a timely manner when USDA funds are not available.
Under an approved plan written by a TWRA Private Lands Biologist, the program provides 75% cost share reimbursement at a maximum of $2,000 in any state fiscal year to implement prescribed habitat practices intended to restore and manage native habitats. Habitat improvements are targeted to assist grassland and shrubland species in decline including bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and many songbirds. Habitat practices include restoration of native grassland and “old field” habitats, hedgerow and shrub thicket development, forest edge thinning, eradication of invasive plants, and management practices such as prescribed burning, strip disking and herbicide application, and interseeding of native forbs and wildflowers.
Upon approval of a FWHP plan that includes at least 5 acres of habitat practices, the landowner signs the contract agreeing to protect the improved habitat for 5 years. After the practices are implemented, the landowner is reimbursed at the specified practice rates based on 75% of established state average practice costs. Applicants are considered on a first-come, first-served basis.
NOTE: While State employees and/or their spouses can receive free technical assistance from TWRA through the Farm Wildlife Habitat Program, Tennessee state law prohibits them from receiving any direct or indirect payments.
The Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program (TSMP) was created to offset adverse physical impacts associated with both state and federal water quality permits. The goal of the TSMP is to both improve water quality and riparian habitat in and along Tennessee’s degraded aquatic resources. The TSMP is a statewide program that provides 100% cost share for all projects it funds. Stream restoration, bank stabilization, riparian restoration and livestock exclusion are a few examples of the types of mitigation opportunities that the TSMP is looking for throughout the state. Through valuable partnerships with government agencies such as NRCS, TDEC, TDA and non-profit conservation groups, the TSMP identifies streams where the physical habitat has been impaired or degraded. With permission and cooperation from participating landowners, the TSMP designs and implements mitigation projects that benefit both the stream and the landowner. All TSMP projects are constructed at no cost to the landowner. Mitigation projects are monitored for success over a period of two to five years and must be protected by a perpetual land preservation agreement held by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. To learn more about the TSMP please visit the Web site at www.tsmp.us or contact at 615-831-9311.
The Forest Stewardship program makes forestry assistance available to private forest landowners and increases public awareness about wise forest use and management. The program focuses on developing detailed plans for privately owned forestland based on specific objectives of the owner. Free, on-the-ground planning assistance is provided by natural resource specialists under the leadership of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.
Depending upon landowners' objectives, stewardship plans may contain detailed recommendations for improvement of wildlife habitat and development of recreational opportunities, as well as for timber establishment, stand improvement and harvesting. Guidelines for prevention of soil erosion, protection of water quality, and preservation of visual values are included in all stewardship plans.
To qualify, landowners must:
For more information on this program, contact your local area forester
This program seeks to restore, improve, and protect fish and wildlife habitat on private lands through alliances between the USFWS, other organizations and individuals, while leaving the land in private ownership. Eligible projects are those that benefit wetlands and their adjacent uplands, state or federal threatened and endangered species, forested riparian habitat, and other important migratory bird habitat, such as native grassland restoration. Applicants work with the USFWS program coordinator to submit a project proposal by October 1. Projects are then ranked according to anticipated ecological benefits, and funding is typically awarded in February. Contract length is a minimum of 10 years. Contact Brad Bingham, State Coordinator, at 931-528-6481 ext. 205 or Bradley_bingham@fws.gov, Cookeville USFWS office or http://cookeville.fws.gov/
This program is co-sponsored by Ducks Unlimited, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of Tennessee Extension Service. It is designed to provide wintering water and food sources for waterfowl and associated wetland species in the Tennessee portion of the birds’ migration route. Participation landowners receive a project construction plan (if needed), water control structure materials, technical assistance during installation, and management recommendations. Projects receiving material assistance should encompass a minimum of 5 acres of surface water and adjacent habitat buffer zones. Participants agree to sign a minimum 10-year Wetland Development Agreement, not permit hunting after 12 noon, and permit an annual inspection by any representation of the partners. Contact Bob Harris, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., 2001-G South Commerce St., Grenada, MS, 38901, 662-226-6880, firstname.lastname@example.org .
This program takes highly erodible and other environmentally sensitive lands out of crop production and establishes a soil-conserving vegetative cover on them under a 10-year contract. Periodic signup periods are announced by USDA when applicants can offer whole-field enrollments. Applications are scored and ranked against other applications from across the country. USDA later announces the minimum score that will be accepted for enrollment under contracts. Options most beneficial to wildlife, such as CP2 Native Grasses and CP4D Permanent Wildlife Habitat offer potential for higher scores and greater likelihood of offer acceptance. In the CRP, the participant receives an annual payment during the term of the contract in addition to 50% cost-share for cover establishment and required management. Contact your local Farm Services Agency office regarding eligibility and details. The standard 50% cost-share for cover establishment, annual maintenance and rental payments is limited to a maximum of $50,000.
This portion of the Conservation Reserve Program includes the most environmentally beneficial, small acreage or buffer (strip) practices. Unlike the General Signup, a landowner can apply at any time and if the landowner is eligible and the land being offered meets the criteria for a specific practice, the offer will be automatically accepted by USDA. In addition, some of the practices qualify for an annual payment that is 20% higher than the same land offered under the General Signup practices, plus qualify for an up-front Signing Incentive Payment of $100 per acre, plus an additional Payment Incentive Practice of 40% of the cover establishment cost. CCRP practices in Tennessee include:
1 = 20% higher annual payment / 2= SIP and PIP payments/ 3= PIP only/ 4= SIP is $150 per acre
Contact your local Farm Services Agency office for eligibility and details.
Links to the following USDA-NRCS programs can be found at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2002/products.html
Under the 2014 Farm Bill, the WHIP program has been discontinued but the same options for developing and/or improving lands to benefit wildlife are now offered through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (see below).
The purpose of the EQIP program is to install and maintain conservation practices that sustain food and fiber production while enhancing soil, water and related natural resources and energy conservation. Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forestland and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes confined livestock feeding operations, crop, range and pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland that is not under a CRP contract. Offers are scored according to specific practices to be implemented, and are ranked once per year. Includes planning for organic production, forest, wildlife, wetland, grazing, nutrient, air quality, invasive species, residue, animal carcass, pest, pollinator, and fuels management and energy production. Some practices are ranked competitively within the county while other practices may be ranked competitively statewide.
The program provides 75% cost share on most contracts for implemented practices. Higher cost-share (up to 90%) may be available to beginning, limited resource or socially disadvantaged farmers. The contract length can be from 1 to 10 years; the minimum length is one year after a practice has been implemented. Practices beneficial to wildlife are exclusion or limited access of livestock to streams, streambank stabilization, wildlife field borders, and conversion of cropland or exotic pasture grasses to native warm season grasses for forage or strictly for wildlife cover, and management of forestlands for at-risk wildlife species.
The contract length is a minimum of 1 year after implementation of the last scheduled practice, maximum of 10 years. The program provides an overall payment limitation of $300,000 per individual, regardless of the number of farms or contracts, over 6 years, with possible wavier to $450,000.
Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
The goal of this program is to restore wetlands on private or tribal property through the acquisition of conservation easements or agreements. Eligible lands include agricultural lands with restorable wetlands that include prior converted wetlands, farmed wetlands, or farmed wetland pastures, or wooded wetlands that have been drained and hydrology can be restored. The land had to have been owned for a minimum of 7 years by the applicant. The landowner has three options:
The landowner controls access, non-developed recreational activities (hunting, fishing) and the right to lease recreational uses for financial gain. Other uses must be approved.
In Tennessee, wetland restoration will consist primarily of restoring bottomland hardwoods and reversing all in-field drainage systems currently in existence. A Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations will be developed scheduling conservation practices installation, cost share to be provided for essential practices, and practices necessary to manage and maintain the wetlands. Up to 30% of the easement area may be left open and established to different habitat types such as shallow water areas for waterfowl, native grass plantings, and up to 5% in food plots. Easement payments may be made as lump sum or from 5 to 30 annual payments through the Commodity Credit Corporation. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
The purpose of the Grassland Reserve Program is to maintain healthy grazing lands and protect them from development. Eligible land can be restored or restorable, improved, or natural grass, range, pastureland, or prairie for which grazing is the predominate use, or contains historic or archeological resources or addresses State, regional or national conservation priorities. Agreements can be 10, 15 or 20 year rental contracts, or permanent easements. Payment on rental contracts equals 75% of grazing value, and payments are limited to $50,000 per person or legal entity per year. Permanent easements are purchased at the fair market value, minus the grazing value. Restoration agreements provide up to 50% of the cost not to exceed $50,000/person or entity/year.
The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes on Tribal and private working lands not currently enrolled in CRP, WRP, and GRP. Working lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pasture, and range land, as well as forested land that is an incidental part of an agriculture operation. The program provides equitable access to benefits to all producers, regardless of size of operation, crops produced or geographic location. Applications are ranked on present and proposed conservation activities, number and extent of resource concerns addressed and cost effectiveness of expected environmental benefits. Applicants must account for stewardship operations covering their entire agricultural operation. Wildlife is a resource concern that can be addressed in CSP practices and enhancements. The program payment cap is $200,000/5 years/person or legal entity.
Wildlife is a resource concern that can be addressed in CSP practices and enhancements. For further information on land eligibility, contract payments, and how CSP works, you can contact your local USDA Service Center.