Montana Focused Conservation-A District Perspective

            Montana Focused Conservation; the newest buzzword, along with “moving the needle”, “random acts of conservation”, “targeted investment”, coming to a Field Office near you in Montana.

            The CD has been working hard to determine how this will affect our traditional customers, agricultural landowners.  The biggest change is that even though landowners will still be able to submit applications for EQIP, funds will only be available in a county under that program in targeted or focused fund pools.  The so-called “shotgun” approach will no longer be used.

            For example, let’s say that you as a landowner would like to do a cross-fence in your grazing pasture, along with some off-stream livestock water.  You can still come into the NRCS Field Office and put in an application for EQIP cost share.  If your proposed project is not within an identified and funded Targeted Implementation Plan, or if it doesn’t fit in one of the other specialized fund pools, then you will have to wait.  If at some point the area that you are in falls into a TIP and that TIP is targeting your resource concern, there is a possibility that your project will then be considered.  TIPS are projected to last for 2-5 years.  You may still be able to receive Technical Assistance if the office is able to get to you.

            The Conservation District Board realizes that when landowners walk in the door at the Field Office with a need that they would like to address on their property, it is certainly not a random act of conservation.  It’s a very real concern that they would like to address and that would make their ag operation run more effectively. 

            While the Conservation District recognizes that the focused or targeted approach works very well, such as in the Capital 360 Forestry project and the Joint Chiefs Forestry Project, we believe that tying up all EQIP funding in those types of projects is “greater good” conservation.  Small projects mean a lot to landowners.  Small projects build relationships between somewhat ephemeral employees at the NRCS Field Office and landowners, some of whom have had families in ag for many generations. 

            Locally led planning sessions will be important.  They will also be open to all.  If landowners/managers do not provide input on their resource priorities, special interest groups and government groups will do it for them.  We as a Conservation District would strongly encourage you to provide feedback, either at one of the 4 meetings that we have scheduled or by returning the survey to the Conservation District office.

            In the meantime, as the Field Office compiles feedback into a Long-Range Plan for the themselves, the Conservation District will be utilizing the same information to adjust our annual plan of operations and search for funding sources that aren’t tied to any of NRCS’ programs.  There may be a way that we can beef up our cost share program to address needs that are outside the NRCS defined “TIPs”.

Dates for the Natural Resource Planning meetings will be:

Lincoln—May 2, 6-8 pm Community Hall

Augusta—May 9, 6-8 pm Augusta Youth Center

Helena Valley—May 16, 6-8 pm East Valley Fire Hall

Wolf Creek—May 23, 6-8 pm Wolf Creek School

           If you have any questions, please give us a call at 406-449-5000 ext. 5 or email us at lccd@mt.net. You can fill out a copy of the resource concerns survey and get it back to us via mail or email.