EQIP sign-up in support of the Greater Outcomes for Greater Sage-Grouse RCPP project ending July 21 | TheFencePost.com

EQIP sign-up in support of the Greater Outcomes for Greater Sage-Grouse RCPP project ending July 21

Late winter brings Sage Grouse together on a lek, or breeding ground, to pick mates. This male is strutting hoping to attract a females.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering Environmental Quality Incentives Program financial and technical assistance to support agricultural producers interested in completing conservation projects to benefit greater sage-grouse habitat in Colorado. Conservation practices that protect and/or improve GRSG habitat on private lands are suitable for this EQIP funding consideration.

Agricultural producers with interest in conservation projects that benefit GRSG are encouraged to apply for these special EQIP funds through the NRCS’ Regional Conservation Protection Partnership. Applications must be received by NRCS before 4 p.m. on July 21, to be considered in the first project funding period. Subsequent project funding periods are expected in 2018 and 2019, unless funds are exhausted during earlier rounds of project funding.

The RCPP encourages partners from across the nation to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources through installation and maintenance of conservation activities in selected project areas. The specific Greater Outcomes for Greater Sage-Grouse RCPP effort is a joint venture of Partners for Western Conservation, The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the states of Nevada and Colorado and Environmental Incentives; among others.

The Greater Outcomes for Greater Sage-Grouse RCPP is intended to improve understanding of how voluntary, outcome-based conservation actions improve habitat for GRSG by using a habitat quantification tool to assess habitat quality. Applicants must include practice code 645 Upland Wildlife Habitat Management in their application to be considered.

“We are thrilled to offer this kind of opportunity to ranchers and landowners in Colorado who are particularly interested in improving habitat for the GRSG. We encourage anyone interested to contact our office to learn more about the Greater Outcomes for Greater Sage-Grouse RCPP project,” said Terry Fankhauser, CCA EVP.

Ultimately, successful projects will be supporting the implementation and objectives of the Colorado Habitat Exchange, a market-based approach to protecting GRSG habitat and part of a continued effort by collective Western states to prevent a listing of the bird as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Successful projects will be issued a conservation certificate from the exchange following participation in this program, provided they also meet eligibility criteria for the exchange.

Conservation practices and management actions may include, but are not limited to, sagebrush establishment, perennial grass and/or forb seeding, riparian or meadow enhancement, cross-fencing, off-stream watering for livestock and wildlife and other potential practices, many of which are likely to be mutually beneficial to GRSG and the producer’s operations.

Within Colorado, this RCPP effort operates under the authority of NRCS’s EQIP. EQIP is a voluntary, financial assistance program that provides funding for the implementation of conservation practices that may be used to protect and enhance sage grouse habitat, manage livestock, improve irrigation efficiency and reduce soil loss.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Financial Assistance programs give producers the opportunity to improve critical wildlife habitats and balance the needs of working farms and ranches. They also can mitigate risk through production diversification; or by implementing innovative management strategies including soil erosion control, integrated pest management or transitioning to organic farming and practices that improve soil health on croplands, pastures and rangeland.

Applicants must meet USDA program eligibility requirements for land eligibility and person eligibility. Eligibility requirements include Adjusted Gross Income limitations for individuals and entities, with entities also required to have a DUNS number and be registered in SAMS to participate. Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria to be considered for ranking and funding decisions. Farm bill programs have strict payment limits, and the amount of financial assistance producers can receive is limited to $450,000 per farm bill cycle. Limited resource producers, beginning farmers and ranchers, or socially disadvantaged agricultural producers may be eligible for up to 15 percent higher payments, not to exceed 90 percent of the estimated cost to install the practice.

To learn more, contact your local NRCS office or go online to http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov. Also, feel free to contact Fankhauser at Colorado Cattlemen’s Association at (303) 431-6422. ❖