Category Archives: Policy

Government and Industry Policy Discussion

NRCS is asking for your review and comment

USDA State Technical Committee and Other Interested Persons are asked for review and comment on two specific items.

State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE)

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has the opportunity to review and modify the existing SAFE proposal for Kentucky.  SAFE is a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative that stands for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement.  Kentucky has had a SAFE agreement in place for a number of years in the western part of the state, targeting bobwhite quail habitat and songbird habitat.  Changes made in the current Farm Bill necessitated modifications to the existing proposal, so FSA, NRCS, and the original stakeholders met informally to review the proposal and draft the required modifications.  We also took the opportunity to make additional changes to improve the agreement and expand the habitat types used to improve conditions for the target species.

 

Before the proposal can be submitted for approval and use in the state, FSA is requesting the State Technical Committee review the attached as put forth by the project stakeholders.  If anyone has any comments or questions, they may be addressed to angella.watson@usda.gov by COB, June 15, 2020.

 

Wetland Restoration Criteria and Guidelines (WRCG)

With the issuance of the revised Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) manual dated February 2020 part 440-528.131 (B.) there is a request that states develop a Wetland Restoration Criteria and Guidelines (WRCG) document. This document outlines the state’s decision making process for ACEP-Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) activities related to eligibility, ranking, selection, restoration, enhancement, and management of wetlands and associated habitats under the ACEP-WRE program to ensure program objectives are met.  When the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) was established and implemented in Kentucky all of these considerations were developed. The WRCG places these decisions in one document.

 

The State Technical should review and comment by June 12, 2020 for approval. No comment will mean acceptance. Questions or comments please contact Allen Arthur at allen.arthur@usda.gov.

 

NRCS Requesting Input

To USDA State Technical Committee and Other Interested Persons:

 

The new federal fiscal year starts in four months!!  As you might imagine, Kentucky NRCS staff is already making plans for FY 2021 program updates and changes.  With COVID-19 limiting our ability to meet together, it is our hope that you will consider this method of interacting as a continuation of our usual collaboration on NRCS programs and priorities.  We welcome and value your input on any or all of the following:

 

  • Practices:  Are there practices or activities beneficial to Kentucky farmers that aren’t currently offered under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)?
  • Payments:  Have you heard any comments regarding practice payment rates received by program participants that are too low or too high? Are there practices for which we should offer an increased payment rate in order to address certain priority resource concerns?
  • Priorities: In addition to locally-led-identified focused conservation projects and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects, we have national and state EQIP priorities where applications compete against like-applications (and sometimes in certain geographical areas.)  The FY 2020 list is shown below (not in any particular order). Are there specific priorities or resource concerns/focuses that we are not addressing/focusing on or any you wish we wouldn’t consider a priority?
    • High Tunnel Systems
    • Organic (Certified and Transitioning)
    • Manure Management
    • Irrigation Water Management
    • Conservation Activity Plans (plans written by certified technical service providers (TSPs))
    • Historically Underserved (a separate category each for beginning farmers, limited resource producers and socially disadvantaged producers)
    • Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative
    • Wildlife
    • Woodland
    • Pastureland
    • Cropland
  • NWQI & MRBI:  In FY 2021, selected watersheds will undergo a planning and assessment year for FY 2022 financial assistance under the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI).  Your input regarding watershed selection was solicited for this via email on May 7, 2020.   Responses were requested by May 22, however if you would still like to provide input, please send that to Tim Hafner at tim.hafner@usda.gov.
  • NRCS Source Water Protection Priority Areas:  We have been given the opportunity to refine the NRCS SWPPAs which were identified with your input last year (map is attached for your information.)  For FY 2020, EQIP applicants in these areas received extra ranking points.  There is also an opportunity to provide a higher payment rate for certain practices that address water quality/quantity in these areas.  Are there other areas that should be considered for NRCS SWPPAs?  Should any of the existing ones be enlarged or removed? Are there practices that should be given consideration for a higher payment rate?

 

In addition to your input on the above issues, we would like your feedback on a few specific items that we are considering for FY 2021 or 2022:

  • Through EQIP, we plan to offer a roofed animal feeding facility in FY 2021.  Our intent is to address the surface and subsurface water quality concerns that can arise from feeding livestock over winter.  This would require a comprehensive nutrient management plan prior to approval.  The facility would consist of several practices including waste storage facility, heavy use area, roofs and covers, roof runoff, and other related components.   While we currently offer these individual practices, we haven’t provided EQIP financial assistance for covered feeding areas in the past and are asking for your feedback on this.
  • Although we have identified irrigation water management (IWM) as a state priority for the last several years, we have not had many applications in this fund account.  EQIP requires that land offered for irrigation practices must have been irrigated at least 2 out of the last 5 years to quality for irrigation-related conservation practices and activities, and those practices/activities must improve water conservation/result in water savings.  We would like your input on what is needed regarding IWM in Kentucky.
  • We would like to build our staff capacity for natural stream design in FY 2021 and potentially offer technical and financial assistance to producers in FY 2022 and would welcome your input on this topic.  The purpose would be to address eroding streambanks and unstable stream reaches.  Natural Stream Design utilizes strategic rock placement, biologic material and other techniques while limiting the use of rip rap or gabion type structures.

 

While this is a rather long list of items for which we’re asking your input, we value and consider carefully your input for our program delivery.  Unless otherwise noted above, please send your input and feedback for any of the topics for which you have an interest to deena.wheby@usda.gov by June 30, 2020.

Deena Wheby |  Assistant State Conservationist for Programs |  771 Corporate Drive, Suite 300, Lexington KY 40503 | Phone:  859.224.7403  deena.wheby@usda.gov  FAX: 855.768.4249

Bill Would Help Woodland Owners Weather Storm Losses

The Forestry Recovery Act of 2019 (H.R. 144) would help woodland owners recover from natural disasters by increasing the amount of financial relief provided by the casualty loss tax deduction.

 

The legislation allows forest landowners to take a casualty loss tax deduction of up to fair market value of their timber when it is destroyed by a catastrophic disaster. The tax deduction is especially important because timber growers do not have access to crop insurance and private insurance is often too expensive and provides inconsistent coverage.

HR 1444 currently has 36 sponsors representing both parties and states from Florida to Texas and Maine to Colorado.  The bill has been stalled in Ways and Means Committee since it was introduced last year.

For more info…

Loggers Seek Parity with Agriculture on Trade, Tariff Policies

The American Loggers Council (ALC) and its member state logging associations delivered letters to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking the administration to include unrefined forest products as an agricultural commodity. ALC and its members say aligning timber and agriculture would enable impacted loggers to receive relief as the industry continues to be impacted by retaliatory tariffs.

 

What’s the Difference Between Forests, Woods, and Jungles?

According to Merriam-Webster, a forest is “a dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract,” while woods are “a dense growth of trees usually greater in extent than a grove and smaller than a forest.” To set it apart from woods, or woodland, a forest usually has to meet certain density qualifications. Unlike forests, jungles don’t have specific scientific classifications, because the word jungle isn’t really used by scientists. According to Sciencing, it’s a colloquial term that usually denotes what scientists refer to as tropical forests.

Read more….

Petition to protect the Cedar Grove Wildlife Corridor

Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E) requested an easement from Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest for the proposed Bullitt County Natural Gas Pipeline. Alternative routes exist that would not destroy conservation lands.

If you’re interested in getting involved, please consider signing a Petition to protect the Cedar Grove Wildlife Corridor. This Corridor is the section of Bernheim property that LG&Eequested easement and deed restrictions for.

Older trees remove more carbon from the atmosphere

Helping existing forests grow to their full potential is more beneficial than reforesting areas that were previously logged or growing trees in areas where there were none.

The research paper “Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good,” published in scientific journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change on June 11, cites research that found “extending harvest cycles and reducing cutting on public lands had a larger effect than either afforestation or reforestation on increasing carbon stored in forests in the Northwest United States.”

Ongoing Work to Protect Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County

From the Kentucky Resources Council August 2019 newsletter

The defense of the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest continues in Bullitt County. KRC’s Environmental and Community Defense team is gearing up its legal defense of Bernheim-owned tracts that are under a double-threat of taking by LG&E and of a future by-pass corridor. It is working alongside additional counsel to protect one of our state’s ecologically diverse  conservation corridors. The proposed pipeline threatens conservation efforts at Bernheim, and is the first known effort of a Kentucky electric utility to interfere with a conservation easement in order to locate an intrastate pipeline, and proposes to run gas service through the easement and across a number of private properties and waterways in order to serve populations other than those across whose property it will impact.

January 2020 Update – KRC continues its representation of the Isaac Bernheim Foundation in opposing the effort of Louisville Gas and Electric Company to condemn an easement across two properties acquired by Bernheim for a conservation corridor.  KRC has filed and briefed a motion to dismiss the condemnation petition for failure to have named and negotiated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which owns an interest in the properties conferring on it the right to allow or refuse to allow such easements.

For more information about how this matter has unfolded…

Bernheim Under Threat Roadshow

Representatives from Bernheim will travel Bullitt County and the surrounding area to provide direct education on their current threat. Bernheim’s road show  and schedule is planned for several months.

Contact the Corps of Engineers and Fish & Wildlife

KRC is working hard to represent Bernheim in this ongoing issue, and your voice can make a difference, too. If you’re interested in getting involved, please consider contacting the Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service using the information below. As LG&E seeks approval for a pipeline corridor that its own consultant recommended avoiding, now is the time to demand that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consider not merely the water crossings and wetland loss, but also the impacts on terrestrial rare and endangered species and public and private lands, and that the Corps demand an individual 404 permit application and a complete terrestrial and aquatic biological assessment along the chosen route, as well as full consideration of alternatives.

Contact

Louisville District of the Corps of Engineers
Louisville District Regulatory Division Office, South Branch
502-315-6675

Kentucky Field Station of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Office
502-695-0468 | kentuckyes@fws.org

KWOA to provide input for and get advice from new UK forestry course

Human Dimension of Forestry and Natural Resources is a new forestry course in the University of Kentucky curriculum for forestry major seniors.

Billy Thomas, UK Extension instructor for the course, says he and co-instructor Laura Lhotka have changed their approach to the class  to provide a service component, expose the students to real world forestry and natural resource issues with strong human elements, and also make them aware of ongoing projects in Kentucky. In addition, they believe the exercise of working with different partners will be extremely beneficial to their future careers and help them develop into more well-rounded professionals.

In preparation students, divided into four separate groups, conducted preliminary research on their group’s Project Paper to “identify the problems/challenges” faced by an assigned real partner representative for whom that group works. KWOA is one of the organizations participating in a student group project. Students were tasked with assisting KWOA in promoting sustainable forest management in Kentucky and growing its membership.


Students used the TELE approach (Tools for Engaging Landowners Effectively) Engagement Guide prepared by the Sustaining Family Forests Initiative* that aims to gain and disseminate comprehensive knowledge about family forest owners.

Read more….

* The Sustaining Family Forests Initiative is a collaboration between the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Center for Nonprofit Strategies.

The student team – Jacob Murray, Sarah Hays, Steven Bloom and Calvin Hornung -submitted their project at the end of the 2019 fall semester. It focused on obtaining new KWOA members and increasing funding. it also identified two audience segments that KWOA leadership has often wanted to target:  elderly landowners and their younger family members.

See more on the student recommendations in their full report and slide show.

Mapping microbial symbioses in forests

Data collected from over 1 million forest plots reveals patterns of where plant roots form symbiotic relationships with fungi and bacteria.

 

In and around the tangled roots of the forest floor, fungi and bacteria grow with trees, exchanging nutrients for carbon in a vast, global marketplace. A new effort to map the most abundant of these symbiotic relationships – involving more than 1.1 million forest sites and 28,000 tree species – has revealed factors that determine where different types of symbionts will flourish.

The work could help scientists understand how symbiotic partnerships structure the world’s forests and how they could be affected by a warming climate.

Stanford University researchers worked alongside a team of over 200 scientists to generate these maps, published May 15 in Nature.

The group used their map to predict how symbioses might change by 2070 if carbon emissions continue unabated. This scenario resulted in a 10 percent reduction in the biomass of tree species that associate with a type of fungi found primarily in cooler regions.

The data behind this map represents real trees from more than 70 countries and collaboration between hundreds of researchers who speak different languages, study different ecosystems and confront different challenges.

“There are more than 1.1 million forest plots in the dataset and every one of those was measured by a person on the ground. In many cases, as part of these measurements, they essentially gave the tree a hug,” said Brian Steidinger, a Stanford University researcher. “So much effort – hikes, sweat, ticks, long days – is in that map.”