VPA-HIP, GWWA, EQUIP – Farm Bill Programs for Wildlife Habitat and Forestry

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The Farm Bill is a giant comprehensive federal government expenditure that funds a lot of programs including farm subsidies and food stamps.  One of the broad categories is Conservation.  This category funds soil protection, forestry and wildlife habitat through landscape level initiatives that address protection of major watersheds, as well as programs for individual landowners to help with work on their property. Here is a link to the Department of Agriculture Farm Bill program portal in case you want to explore more details.

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/

The programs I work with are the VPA-HIP and EQIP.  A separately-funded initiative that funds Golden Winged Warbler habitat through the EQIP program is a main focus of my work as a  Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Forester.

VPA-HIP stands for Voluntary Public Access Habitat Incentive Program.  This program offers habitat work and other benefits to landowners who enroll their land, in exchange for public access for hunting of one or two categories of species.  Categories are big game, small game, turkeys and trapping.  One species group if the land is exceptional.

One very important benefit to the landowner is that VPA cooperators are protected from liability if any accidents occur involving hunters.  Liability is often the reason folks do not allow hunting access – this program protects the landowner.

If you have large areas to treat, need to have Rx burning done, the PGC will do forestry and habitat work that you can’t get done with any other program.  This is the only way landowners can get burning done in a practical way.

For more details, please refer to the link below that will take you to the brochure from the Game Commision.

PGC Hunter Access Brochure_Rev_Jan30

To develop Young Forests which are important for habitat and for healthy timber growth, we are actively looking for land to enroll in the Golden Winged and/or Cerulean Warbler initiative program.  These initiatives provide help through EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) to develop new growth with site prep with herbicides or TSI cutting, thinning and deer fencing if necessary.  These are expensive but necessary projects if you want to create thick new tree growth on land that has had problems with high-grading, invasives and deer browse pressure.  Your land has to meet certain location and forest requirements to qualify for this program.  EQIP is designed to provide wildlife habitat and forestry improvements on private land.  I have seen landowners do as much as $20,000 worth of wildlife habitat improvements and they are only responsible for 25%.  By doing some of the work yourself, you can reduce that 25% substantially.  Specialty contractors are often needed but backpack herbicide work and planting can be a do-it-yourself project.

If you would like to discuss any of these programs or would like a no-obligation site visit to see if your land is qualified for financial aide, feel free to contact me.

Call me at 814-360-4510

email me at schilcote1223@gmail.com

About the Author:

Wildlife habitat manager and consulting forester from Central PA. Studied environmental Agriculture specializing in wildlife management and Forestry. B.S. Agriculture, Masters degree in Forestry. 30 years experience in land investment, forestry and wildlife habitat improvement. Currently working as a Farm Bill Forester for Pheasants Forever on Game Commission and Golden Winged Warbler Initiative.

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