Community Agriculture Alliance: Natural Resource Conservation Service assistance available
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Natural Resource Conservation Service — or NRCS — is currently available to provide assistance with agricultural practices that can increase production and optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land in Routt County. The service provides farmers, ranchers and forest managers with free technical assistance for their land. Technical assistance is advice about how to implement a management practice in a way that can ensure productivity and protect the resources.
There is also a possibility of financial assistance for projects that qualify. Financial assistance would be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. The program is a voluntary Farm Bill program which provides financial assistance for conservation systems such as irrigation system efficiency improvements, fencing, water supply development, riparian protection, changes in cropping systems that can decrease erosion and improve soil health and wildlife habitat enhancement.
A common type of project that NRCS assists with in Routt County involve irrigation improvements, both infrastructure improvements and water management practices.
Many of the agricultural water users that recently received notifications from the Colorado Department of Water Resources regarding their water diversions could qualify for assistance from NRCS. With the installation of a properly functioning diversion and water measuring device comes a greater ability to apply the correct amount of water at the right time. This can result in water savings and an increase in production.
NRCS can also assist with the development of forest management plans and the implementation of forestry health projects on private lands. Forest management plans can have varying goals, including improved wildlife habitat, fuel reduction, and pest prevention. With the recent droughts in Colorado and the importance of forests to watershed function it is essential that private land owners have a management plan that helps to maintain a healthy forest.
When visiting with NRCS staff about the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, landowners are encouraged to inquire about NRCS’ comprehensive conservation plans. The agency continually strives to put conservation planning at the forefront of its programs and initiatives. Conservation plans provide landowners with a comprehensive inventory and assessment of their resources, as well as an appropriate start to improving the quality of soil, water, air, plants and wildlife on their land.
If you are interested in exploring the opportunity for NRCS assistance, contact Clinton Whitten, the local district conservationist, at 970-879-3225 x108. We can set up an appointment to discuss your management goals and evaluate the property. We are currently accepting applications for the fiscal year 2020 Environmental Quality Incentive Program signup.
A deadline has not been announced, but it will be after Oct. 1. If you contact the NRCS office, we can determine if the project is eligible and start to develop the project plan.
Clinton Whitten is the Natural Resource Conservation Service district conservationist.
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