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Conservation funds available

TICONDEROGA - New York landowners, farmers and forestland owners have until Jan. 14, 2011, to apply for 2011 conservation program funding. The programs falling within this deadline include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA), and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

Conservation programs were authorized by Congress under the 2008 Farm Bill to provide funding and technical assistance to landowners who voluntarily implement conservation practices. These practices improve natural resources and wildlife habitat on privately owned agricultural land and forestlands.

"We are pleased to offer landowners in New York opportunities to address resource concerns related to soil, water, air, plants and animals through a variety of programs," said NRCS State Conservationist Astor Boozer. "The result will be cleaner water, more productive soils, healthier forests, improved grasslands, and more abundant wildlife for all New York residents."

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offers funding assistance in the form of engineered structures, such as manure handling facilities, and conservation practices such as grassed waterways. Focus areas within the EQIP program include livestock waste, cropland, and grazing. Private forestland owners have opportunities to improve forest health and productivity under the woodland program focus area.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) assists producers to help minimize excess nutrients and sediments in order to restore, preserve, and protect the Chesapeake Bay. In New York, the Bay program offers funding and technical assistance to producers in the priority areas of the Upper Susquehanna Watershed.

The Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) focuses on improving irrigation efficiency. A primary goal of the program is to assist agricultural producers in mitigating risk through production diversification or installation of conservation practices.

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) focuses on improving habitat for at-risk shrub-dwelling birds. Additional funding for this program was received as part of the New England\New York Forestry Initiative. Another focus within the program is establishing and enhancing grassland habitat for declining bird species, pollinators, and other wildlife.

Applications for EQIP, CBWI, AMA, and WHIP are competitive and ranked based on national, state, and locally identified resource priorities, and their overall benefit to the environment. Interested landowners can apply for all programs at their local USDA-NRCS office. For sign-up details or additional conservation program information contact your local USDA-NRCS office or visit http://www.ny.nrcs.usda.gov/.

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