COLUMBIA, S.C. — Longleaf pine forests once covered millions of acres throughout the Southeastern United States. Today, only a few thousand acres of this vital habitat remains. To help sustain, enhance and restore longleaf pine forests, State Conservationist Ann English is allocating financial assistance to eligible landowners through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Administered through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts up to a maximum term of 10 years in length. The contracts offer financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.
“The longleaf pine is one of our key native species and it provides a home to hundreds of plant and animal species and is also a tremendous economic resource,” English said.
Longleaf pine habitat can contain as many as 300 different species of ground cover plants per acre, and approximately 60 percent of the amphibian and reptile species found in the Southeast. Additionally, this forested habitat is home to at least 122 endangered or threatened plant and animal species including the fox squirrel, northern bobwhite, red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise.
“We’ve taken great steps toward conserving longleaf pine forests in South Carolina,” said English.
The EQIP longleaf pine initiative will offer both technical and financial assistance to help landowners in South Carolina improve habitat on agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest and Tribal land. Eligible landowners in South Carolina should submit applications to their local NRCS office no later than Feb. 17, 2012.
Approved applicants will receive assistance for conservation practices including planting longleaf pine, installing firebreaks, conducting prescribed burning and controlling invasive plants. Additional information is available at www.sc.nrcs.usda.gov or visit your USDA NRCS office.