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EQIP Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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					   EQIP Frequently Asked Questions and Answers - Fiscal Year 2008
                    (October 17, 2007 through February 28, 2008)

Forestry Management Implementation

Clarification on the Ranking Criteria #4 and #6 for Forestry Management
Implementation are listed below:

Ranking Question #4- Oak Regeneration (issued 11/21/07)
The intent of ranking question # 4 is to address the issue of shade tolerant species shading
out oak regeneration in established upland oak stands.

The problem occurs when the overstory oak is harvested and no oak regeneration is
present to grow in place of the removed overstory. The composition of the stand is then
changed as the more shade tolerant species become more dominant. The oak seed source
is lost with the removal of the overstory, and the increase in shade tolerant species
continues to suppress oak regeneration, the oak species is then lost from the site.

Key words to look for in the forest management plan:
• Upland sites
• Mature overstory
• Harvest the oak in the overstory
• Oak listed as a species in the overstory
• Oak regeneration suppressed
• Lacking oak advance regeneration
• No oak regeneration is present due to shade tolerant trees (for example: sugar maple,
ironwood, elm) in the understory or midstory
• Recommend TSI to remove shade tolerant species and enhance growth or establishment
of oak seedlings
• Recommend clear out undesirable species and plant mostly oak seedlings
• Regeneration cut harvest is recommended to release the oak seedlings


Note: Practices that include increasing the oak component in a stand, or returning the oak
component to a stand are important; however these practices do not meet the intent of the
ranking criteria for FY 2008.

The following situations would not garner ranking points:
• Bottomland sites
• No oak in overstory
• TSI on pole size stands or smaller (dbh = 1”-10.9”) with no overstory or scattered trees
in overstory
• No oak regeneration present and no plans to plant oak




                                                                                             1
Typically for discussion purposes based on 2" diameter size classes
• Seedlings - just above acorn to .99 inches
• Saplings - 1" to 2.9" (2" Diameter Size Class)
• Small Trees - 3.0" to 6.9" (4" to 6" Diameter Size Class)-(Occasionally included as Pole
Trees)
• Pole - 7" to 10.9" (8" to 10" Diameter Size Class)
• Small Saw - 11" to 14.9" (12" to 14" Diameter Size Class)
• Saw timber - 15"+

Ranking Question # 6 – Invasive Species (issued 11/21/07 and reissued 11/30/07)
The invasive species to be considered under Ranking Question # 6 are herbaceous plants
and woody shrubs, and vines.

Woody trees (i.e. Autumn Olive) will be treated under Forest Stand Improvement – forest
stand improvement – Invasive Species Control when the woody invasives are > 50% of
the infestation.

End of Clarifications and Beginning of Q and A’s
Question FMI1 (issued 10/17/07)
Is there a minimum amount of acres that is required for the forest management
implementation?

Answer: No, as long as a forest related resource concern is being addressed with EQIP
        dollars, CRP acres are not included, the acreage is being used for timber
        production, the acreage has a Forest Management Plan, or meets another criteria
        as described in the EQIP Manual under producer eligibility 515.51(c)(iv).

Question FMI2 (issued 10/17/07)
Does an applicant need a Farm and Tract number to be eligible for the Forest
Management Plan or Forest Management Implementation?

Answer: If the applicant has a Farm and Tract number on cropland adjacent to the
        application area that Farm and Tract number should be used. If the applicant has
        never participated in USDA programs, the applicant will need to complete and
        file the following forms with FSA; AD-1026, CCC-526, and CCC-501A to
        determine part of their EQIP eligibility. FSA may assign the applicant a Farm
        and Tract number in order to process the required forms.

Question FMI3 (issued 10/23/07)
The EQIP forest management plan ranking excludes windbreaks, nurseries, etc. Do these
exclusions hold true for the forestry management implementation?

Answer: Yes, the same exclusions apply to the EQIP forestry management implementation
         according to the forestland definition.




                                                                                         2
Question FMI4 (issued 10/23/07, reissued11/21/07, 01/07/08, 02/28/08)
When developing an EQIP contract for Forestry Management Implementation, to conduct
Forest Stand Improvement or Prescribed Burning, do the effects on the Indiana Bat have
to be evaluated if the bat does not show up on the EcoCAT report?

Answer: Official guidance can now be found in Amendment IL-2 Supplement to the
        National Environmental Compliance Handbook dated 02/15/08 at the following
        website and will supersede all previous Q and As and guidance.

http://www.il.nrcs.usda.gov/intranet/nrcsemp/directives/ILHndBkSup_index.html

Question FMI5 (10/23/07)
How is a forest management practice certified as complete?

Answer: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources certified forestry practices on
       acres that are also enrolled eligible for the benefits through the Forestry
       Development Act (FDA). IDNR foresters are required to certify all practices on
       acres enrolled in the Forestry Development Act. NRCS will use IDNR forester
       certification. If the landowner or affected acreage is not enrolled in the Forestry
       Development Act, the NRCS field office or Area Specialist will need to certify
       the practice(s).

Question FMI6 (10/23/07, chart updated 1/7/08)
The Forest Management Implementation Ranking Criteria Question #6 asks if the forest
management plan identified a Plant Condition-Noxious and Invasive Plants resource
concern. Can you please provide a comprehensive list of all noxious and invasive plants
that would qualify an applicant to receive the points for Question #6.

Answer: Review the forest management plan. The need to treat noxious and/or invasive
        species should be identified by the forester and included in the forest
        management plan. Species and treatment recommendations should be listed.
        Below is a partial list of invasive species commonly found in forestland. If the
        forest management plan lists noxious or invasive species not on the attached list,
        consult with your area specialist.




                                                                                          3
                    Commonly Found Noxious or Invasive Species In Forestland
                              (NOT AN ALL INCLUSIVE LIST)


                        COMMONLY FOUND NOXIOUS OR INVASIVE SPECIES IN FORESTLAND
                                      (NOT AN ALL INCLUSIVE LIST)
                         Woody or
 Common Name                               Scientific Name                    Nativity*                 Source of listing
                        Herbaceous
musk thistle            Herbaceous   Carduus nutans L.               Introduced                 Illinois Administrative Code. 2002.
                                                                                                Illinois noxious weed law (20
                                                                                                October 2003). State of Illinois
Canada thistle          Herbaceous   Cirsium arvense (L.)Scop.       Introduced                 Same as above
kudzu                   Woody        Pueraria montana (Lour.)        Introduced – China,        Same as above
                                     Merr. var. lobata (Willd.)      Japan
                                     Maesen & S. Almeida or
                                     Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi
perennial sowthistle    Herbaceous   Sonchus arvensis L.             Introduced                 Same as above
Columbus grass          Herbaceous   Sorghum almum Parodi            Introduced                 Same as above
Johnsongrass            Herbaceous   Sorghum halepense (L.)          Introduced                 Same as above
                                     Pers.
garlic mustard          Herbaceous   Alliaria petiolata              Introduced - Europe        http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/educatio
                                                                                                n/ExoticSpecies/photogallery.htm

Japanese                Woody        Lonicera japonica               Introduced - Asia          Same as above
honeysuckle
Amur honeysuckle        Woody        Lonicera maackii                Introduced – Korea,        Same as above
                                                                     China, Japan

common buckthorn        Woody        Rhamnus cathartica              Introduced - Eurasia       Same as above
smooth buckthorn        Woody        Rhamnus frangula L.             Introduced – Eurasia       Same as above


glossy buckthorn        Woody        Franula alnus P. Mill.          Introduced                 http://plants.usda.gov/
Oriental or round       Woody         Celastrus orbiculatus          Introduced                 Same as above
leaved bittersweet
multiflora rose         Woody        Rosa multiflora                 Introduced – rootstock     Same as above
                                                                     from Japan
reed canary grass       Herbaceous   Phalaris arundinacea L.         Native                     http://plants.usda.gov/
Japanese barberry       Woody        Berberis thumbergii             Introduced - Asia          http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/educatio
                                                                                                n/ExoticSpecies/photogallery.htm
European privet         Woody        Ligustrum vulgare               Introduced - Europe        Same as above
wintercreeper or        Woody        Euonymus fortunei               Introduced - China         http://na.fs.fed.us/FHP/INVASIVE_
climbing Euonymus                                                                               PLANTS/weeds/
winged wahoo or         Woody        Euonymus alatus                 Introduced – Asia, China   Same as above
burning bush or
winged Euonymus
Autumn olive            Woody        Elaegnus umbellate Thunb or     Introduced – China,        http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/educatio
                                     Elaeagnus umbellate Thunb.      Korea, Japan               n/ExoticSpecies/photogallery.htm
                                     var. parvifolia Schneid.




                                                                                                                  4
         If you are unfamiliar with a plant you can check the USDA PLANTS website
         at: http://plants.usda.gov/ . On the upper left area of the webpage is the “Search
         box”.

         1. Type the name of the plant of interest (for example: garlic mustard)
         2. In the pull down menu, select whether the name is the common name or
         scientific
         name or symbol.
         3. Click the “go” button
         4. The information for the plant of interest should be displayed
         5. Right of the photo is a link entitled, “Growth Habit”. The growth habit for
         garlic mustard is “Forb/Herb”. The definitions of the growth habit can be seen
         by clicking on the link.




Question FMI7 (11/1/07)
Why was the first round ranking point cutoff for EQIP Forest Management
Implementation set at 80 points, which appears high for Forest Management
Implementation ranking category?

Answer: Many factors contribute to the establishment of the point cutoff. At this point, it
        cannot be determined what EQIP point cutoffs will be in the future. Field
        offices should continue to accept and rank applications for EQIP.




                                                                                          5
Question FMI8 (11/9/07)
Is land that is enrolled in the state CREP “other acres” eligible for the Forest
Management Implementation? There are no federal dollars for cost-share on those acres
and the area is not in the federal CREP program.

Answer: The EQIP Manual 515.52 F (iii) states that “Land enrolled in other conservation
        programs is eligible under EQIP provided: (iii) The EQIP practices do not
        defeat the purpose of either EQIP or the other conservation program.”
        Therefore, if the EQIP Forest Management Implementation will be addressing a
        resource concern that is not already required to be addressed by the state CREP
        program, the land is eligible for EQIP funding for Forest Management
        Implementation.

Question FMI9 (11/9/07, reissued 11/21/07)
How should National Issue #4 be determined for the Forest Management Implementation
applications? RUSLEII does not calculate soil erosion for forestland therefore, how do
we determine the application is at or above T?

Answer: For National Issue #4, on the Forest Management Implementation ranking
        criteria only, soil loss does not have to be calculated. If the practices being put
        on the ground using EQIP money have an X in the National Issue’s matrix, then
        points should be given for National Issue #4 on the Forest Management
        Implementation ranking criteria.

Question FMI10 (11/9/07)
An applicant’s forest management plan mentions that there are invasive species in their
forestland. However, in the recommendations of their plan, treatment of the invasive
species is not mentioned. Can the applicant receive points for Question #6 under Forest
Management Implementation?

Answer: Treatment of the invasive species should be mentioned in the recommendations
        of the forest management plan in order to take points under Question #6.

         If it appears that treatment of the invasive species is needed and was just not
         mentioned in the recommendations, the District Conservationist should ask the
         landowner to go back to the consulting forester to find out if the invasive
         species should be treated or if not mentioning the treatment was an oversight. If
         the landowner finds that the invasive species should be treated and the forest
         management plan is updated to reflect the invasive species treatment, the
         applicant can take points for Question #6.

         Note: When inquiring with the consulting forester the landowner should find out
         specifically what species need to be treated, how much area needs to be treated,
         and what type of treatment should be used. The FOREST STAND
         IMPROVEMENT (666) Job Sheet – Invasive Species in a Woodland Habitat
         (draft September, 2007) could be used to document the invasive species



                                                                                          6
         information. The Plan Implementation Schedule in the forest management plan
         should be amended.

Question FMI11 (Issued11/9/07, Revised 11/21/07)
Can an applicant get points for Question #5 under the Forest Management
Implementation ranking criteria, if they will be treating forestland acres that are highly
erodible land or on steep slopes? Also, how are steep slopes defined?

Answer: Yes, if they will be applying one or more of the practices listed in Question #5
        including: Fence (to exclude livestock out of a forest area), Forest Stand
        Improvement (thinning), Prescribed Burning, and/or Forest Trails and Landings
        on highly erodible or on steep slopes within their forestland, they can garner the
        points in Question #5 of the Forest Management Implementation ranking
        criteria.

         "Steep slopes", for the purposes of scoring the forest management
         implementation questions, are defined as soils with "D" slopes or greater. Steep
         Slopes and/or HEL soils need to be >10% of the forestland acres to garner
         points for Question #5 under the Forest Management Implementation ranking
         criteria.

Question FMI12 (11/9/07)
Can an EQIP application include the FOREST STAND IMPROVEMENT – Invasive
Species payment scenario more than one time to compensate for multiple treatments of
invasive species on the same acreage?

Answer: If an EQIP applicant has a forest management plan that identifies invasive
        species control is needed and the species being treated cannot be controlled in
        one treatment, the invasive species practice can be paid on for more than one
        treatment but not more than 3 treatments. If invasive species need to be treated
        more than one time, we would expect to see the acres or intensity of the
        treatment reduced in each consecutive treatment.

         For example:
         Herbicide treatment for bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard in a 10 acre forest
         land tract.

         1st year – Forest Stand Improvement – invasive species - woody on 10 acres
         (treating both bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard. bush honeysuckle > 50% of
         area)

         2nd year – Forest Stand Improvement – invasive species - woody on 10 acres
         (treating both bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard. bush honeysuckle > 50% of
         area)                                                              continued




                                                                                             7
         3rd year – Forest Stand Improvement – invasive species - herbaceous on 5
         acres
         (treating both bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard – where garlic mustard is
         now > 50% of area)

         The plan is to treat the whole 10 acre forest land unit the first year because it has
         an infestation of > 50% of woody species. The second year (or maybe only 4
         months later) resprouts need to be treated so; a second treatment of woody
         species would be included in the contract. Then a third treatment is expected to
         be necessary for some bush honeysuckle treatment but primarily treating the
         garlic mustard (> 50% herbaceous species) on 5 acres (the other 5 acres should
         be controlled after the second treatment). There may be continued spot
         treatment needed in the fourth and following years but this is considered
         maintenance and would be at the owner’s expense.

Question FMI13 (11/21/07)
If the Forest Management Plan includes prescribed burning can NRCS employees write
prescribed burning into a Toolkit plan and ProTracts contract?

Answer: Yes, NRCS employees can write prescribed burning into a Toolkit plan and
        ProTracts contract as long as the employee has Level A Job Approval authority
        for prescribed burning, per the policy found in the General Manual Part 413-
        Prescribed Burn, Subpart B. Even though prescribed burning is listed in the
        forest management plan, the field office will need to determine if the
        recommended prescribed burn is in compliance with NRCS-Illinois policy. See
        General Manual 190-ESC Amendment IL-1 (Part413, Subpart B).

Question FMI14 (11/21/07)
Who will be designing and implementing the Forest Management Implementation
practices?

Answer: The practices can be designed either by NRCS or by a third party. If designed
        by someone other than NRCS, the designs must be reviewed by NRCS to ensure
        the practice will meet our standards and specifications.

Question FMI15 (11/21/07)
Is it a requirement to complete the job sheets for Forest Management Implementation
practices?

Answer: Yes, if NRCS is designing the forest management implementation practices, the
        job sheets must be completed. If a third party is designing the practices the job
        sheets are not required, yet as stated in the previous question the designs must
        be reviewed by NRCS to ensure the practice will meet our standards and
        specifications.




                                                                                            8
Question FMI16 (11/21/07)
Who can design/write a prescribed burning plan?

Answer: A NRCS employee with appropriate job approval authority for the site, or a
        third party can design/write the prescribed burning plan. All prescribed burn
        plans will need to be reviewed and approved by an NRCS employee with
        adequate job approval authority for prescribed burning.

Question FMI17 (11/21/07)
Several of the Forest Management Plans recommended planting rates for tree/shrub
establishment, which were below the planting rates recommended in our standards and
specifications. Since the planting rate was recommended by the consulting forester can
we assume that the recommendation was made because there were enough seedlings per
acre already growing on the site?

Answer: The recommended planting rates of the Forest Management Plan plus the
        existing seedlings on site should equal at least the standard minimums (436
        bareroot or 1 gallon or less container trees planting on 10’x10’ spacing) of the
        612 Tree/Shrub Establishment standard.

Question FMI18 (11/30/07)
Although field offices are not required to submit bills for payment processing of practice
implementation for EQIP 2007 contracts and beyond, should Prescribed Forestry and/or
Forest Management Implementation bills be collected to calculate average costs via Cost
Tracker?

Answer: Yes, collect bills for all applicable EQIP practices. How costs will be collected
        for FY 2008 has not been determined; therefore, all field offices are required to
        keep bills for all practices where possible. Bills will also be useful as proof of
        practice completion.

Question FMI19 (11/30/07)
Can an applicant with 60 acres of Forest Stand Improvement schedule the work over
three years and get paid after each years work is completed (i.e.: 20 acres at a time), or
does payment have to wait for the entire forested area to be completed? Also, will a site
visit from a Forester to mark removal trees for the landowner serve as contract activity
meeting the need to begin a contract within 12 months?

Answer: In order to make timelier payments for smaller parcels, the recommendation is
        to delineate treatment areas into smaller units and develop separate contract
        items accordingly. Marking of tree removal can be considered as a contract
        activity conducted within the first 12 months.




                                                                                             9
Question FMI20 (Original 11/30/07; Revised 1/7/08)
Can a landowner that has been approved for Forest Stand Improvement practices through
the IFDA (Illinois Forestry Development Act) working through the District Forester, also
receive EQIP money?

Answer: Answer: EQIP is typically not used when another cost sharing program is
         available. However, if the landowner initially signed up for EQIP and then
         IDNR wanted to “piggy-back” with IFDA funds that would be an acceptable
         situation. The contract holders should not receive more than 100% of the cost
         to install the practice.

Question FMI21 (11/30/07)
Will the Forest Management Implementation (FMI) applications that are selected for
funding be reviewed by the State Forester as they were after the first EQIP funding
batching period?

Answer: No. The first review of the FMI applications by the State Forester should have
        provided enough oversight in order that the Field and Area Office staff can now
        review and process an FMI application and contract. If questions come up with
        ranking the applications, the Area Staff should contact Paula Hingson. If
        questions come up with interpreting what the Forester intended with the Forest
        Management Plan, the Area staff should contact Kathy McTighe.

Question FMI22 (11/30/07)
An applicant has two parcels of Timber that are separated by grassland. The applicant has
a Forest management plan on the Timber, but the grassland area is not included in the
Forest management plan. The applicant wants to conduct a prescribed burn in the timber
and on the grassland. Can the applicant apply under FMI for prescribed burning in the
timber area and on the grassland?

Answer: No. Since the FMI ranking criteria focuses on forestland, the grassland area will have to
          be a separate application under General EQIP. Unfortunately, when separate ranking
          criteria are created to target specific resource concerns, it becomes difficult to be all
          inclusive in situations like the one presented here.


Question FMI23: (1/7/08)
Can a list of invasive and noxious Woody and Herbaceous species for vegetative control
be provided?

Answer: Yes, the chart in Question FMI6 has been modified to include a column titled
        “Woody or Herbaceous”. See FMI 6 for chart and directions to USDA PLANTS
        website.




                                                                                                      10
Question FMI24 (1/7/08)
Can thinning (Forest Stand Improvement – forest stand improvement scenario) be
included in the following contract scenario:

Example: Stand 1 (20 acres) Management Recommendations: The stand is ready for a
harvest. Remove over mature trees on 15 acres. Follow the harvest with a thinning to
remove undesirable trees on the remaining acres.

                                 Implementation Schedule
                              Year Stand        Acres

                             2006     1                15

                             2007-        At least 2 acres per year until
                                      1
                             2017             all acres are complete


Answer: A forestry conservation practice can be included in a contract if the forest
        management plan specifies acres to be treated. The example above is unclear
        between the “Stand 1 (20 acres) Management Recommendations” or the
        “Implementation Schedule” regarding the total number of acres being
        recommended for thinning. Is the forester recommending thinning on the 5
        acres not being harvested, throughout the entire 20 acre stand, or on the 15 acres
        being harvested?

         The acres of forest stand improvement would need to be clarified by the forester
         before the practice could be added to a contract. If the forest management plan
         includes an adequate map, the acres of forest stand improvement may be able to
         be determined.

Question FMI25 (1/7/08)
Can a timber harvest be part of an EQIP contract?

Answer: A timber harvest cannot be an item in the EQIP contract. However, a timber
        harvest may be conducted and completed while the land is under an EQIP
        contract.

Question FMI26 (1/7/08)
If an applicant enters into an EQIP contract, can that applicant still harvest timber on that
property? What about endangered species like the Indiana bat?

Answer: Example: The applicant’s forest management plan includes a timber harvest
        followed by Forest Stand Improvement (666) on the same acres. The applicant
        signs a contract for Forest Stand Improvement.

         An applicant can have a timber harvest if NRCS did not provide financial or
         technical assistance for the timber harvest. With no assistance from NRCS, the
         timber harvest is not considered a federal action. The timber harvest would be


                                                                                           11
         completed before the Forest Stand Improvement practice would be
         implemented.


         The Forest Stand Improvement practice under contract is considered a federal
         action and is subject to the “Guidance related to the Indiana bat and the gray
         bat” (or any other federally listed endangered or threatened species). See FMI4
         for website information. For further information review Amendment IL-2
         Supplement to the National Environment Compliance Handbook dated 2/15/08.

Question FMI27 (1/7/08)
In the case where an applicant's forest management plan includes a timber harvest
followed by Forest Stand Improvement, and Forest Stand Improvement is the only
practice in the contract, how should we advise the applicant to proceed with the forest
management implementation?

Answer: Program rules state that a practice needs to be started within one year. The
        timber harvest would need to be completed prior to the implementation of the
        Forest Stand Improvement.

         If the landowner is not already working with a professional forester regarding
         the timber harvest, it may be difficult to begin the Forest Stand Improvement in
         the timeframe required by the EQIP contract.

         Below is a list of activities that are recommended to take place before a timber
         harvest.
         • Select a consulting forester (see FMP 10). Discuss with the forester the
         amount to harvest, harvest method, length of time to complete harvest, and sign
         a contract with the forester.
         • The forester should cruise the timber (determine volume), layout the road(s),
         skid trails, and landing(s).
         • Advertise the sale and conduct a sealed bid of the timber.
         • Conduct a reference check of the loggers before accepting the bids. Possibly
         make a site visit to an area the loggers have recently harvested. Talk with the
         landowners about their experience with the logger. Ask the loggers similar
         questions you would ask to the consulting forester (see FMP 10). Talk with the
         forester you hired about his or her experience with the loggers.
         • Confirm that the logger can complete the sale prior to the time when the
         NRCS contract for the forest stand improvement expires. Confirm that the
         forester is available to administer the sale (i.e. be on site during the harvest).
         • Sign a contract with the logger.
         • The logging may not be able to begin immediately. The timing of the logging
         may be restricted due to soil types, endangered or threatened species, or
         weather. Questions regarding timing of logging may include: does a road need
         to be built to the landing; do water crossings need to be installed; and is the




                                                                                          12
         logger conducting the road work, is the road work subcontracted, or does the
         landowner need to find someone?

         The bottom line is that the landowner should not enter into a contract for a
         timber sale in a rush in order to begin the Forest Stand Improvement within the
         first 12 months of the contract. The timber sale can improve a landowner’s
         property if done correctly and produce a better return when managed well. A
         poor timber sale can set an investment back for a generation or two.

Question FMI28 (1/7/08)
Can a list of the approved Consulting Foresters in Illinois be provided to the field offices?

Answer: See answer to FMP10

An Question FMI29 (1/31/08)
Could trees that are not on the Noxious and Invasive Species list be considered invasive
          if existing density rates are very high?

Answer: No. Native tree species, no matter how invasive, are funded under the forest
        stand improvement payment scenario of $50.88/acres. The two payment
        scenarios for forest stand improvement were developed as native invasive
        woody and native invasive herbaceous rather than on a density or basal area
        basis.




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