SALINA, KANSAS, March 11, 2021‒‒Kansas producers have new funding opportunities to help address woody plant encroachment on targeted rangelands through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“Transitioning from productive rangeland to woody plant dominance is the greatest threat to rangeland conservation in Kansas,” said Monty R. Breneman, Acting State Conservationist. “New scientific tools now provide unprecedented opportunities to track woody encroachment and develop strategic approaches to combat it. When combined with landowner expertise, we can defend intact grasslands, reduce vulnerability to future encroachment, and cut long-term maintenance costs.”
Woody plant encroachment puts pressure on working rangelands by decreasing livestock production and increasing wildfire risk as well as harming grassland biodiversity and increasing threat to animal species living in this biome.
NRCS is adopting a new approach to addressing this widespread threat through the Kansas Great Plains Grassland Initiative (GPGI). The initiative is part of the NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) framework calling to conserve the last remaining iconic grassland regions in the Great Plains biome.
WLFW is NRCS’s premier approach for conserving America’s working lands to benefit people, wildlife, and rural communities. WLFW uses win-win solutions to target voluntary, incentive-based conservation to target voluntary, incentive-based conservation that improves agricultural productivity and wildlife habitat on working lands.
The GPGI initiative focuses on earlier prevention strategies and makes producers in targeted rangelands eligible to receive Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding related to addressing woody plant encroachment. Core grasslands include targeted areas within the Flint Hills, Gypsum Hills, and Smoky Hills regions of Kansas.
Treatment strategies will rely on an integrated pest management conservation system plan to manage woody species encroachment on identified planned land units (PLUs) within the core grassland areas.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 application evaluation period cut-off date for Kansas GPGI is Friday, July 2, 2021. Applications submitted prior to the cut-off will be assessed and ranked as soon as the applicant has made treatment decisions in a conservation plan. Based on fund availability, application assessments with a ranking score of 30 points or greater will be preapproved immediately allowing the applicant to Act Now and achieve contract approval to begin practice installation without being evaluated against other submitted assessments. Application assessments ranking scores less than 30 points will be batched and funded in ranking order as funding allows.
“The Act Now funding process will allow applicants with high enough application ranking scores to strike while the iron is hot and immediately enter into EQIP contracts,” said Monty R. Breneman, Acting State Conservationist. “This will enable interested and qualified applicants to perform the needed conservation treatments as soon as they are ready, willing, and able.”
USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business are required to call their local Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at Farmers.gov/coronavirus .
It is important that applicants provide accurate records of ownership to USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). This FY, all landowners are required to file a CCC-902, Farm Operating Plan, along with adjusted gross income and conservation compliance forms. Application information is available at your local USDA Service Center. More information is also available at Kansas NRCS.
To learn more about GPGI or other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit Get Started with NRCS or contact your local USDA Service Center.
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