There are many programs and resources that can assist you with your land protection goals and help you to decide if a conservation easement is right for you. The following information can help you navigate the options available to you and those best suited to meet your conservation goals!
Developed by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, and in partnership with Pennsylvania DCNR and Audubon, the Family Forest Carbon Program is a great opportunity to receive funding to improve woodland health on your property. The Family Forest Carbon Program supports landowners through funding and assistance in pursuing certain forest stewardship activities that enhance habitat for wildlife and improve water quality on your woodland property.
Funding is currently available for two activities in Pennsylvania:
You can use an online tool called WoodsCamp to find your parcel on a map and request a report on your woodland property. This report will provide information about the opportunities that match your forest and your goals, including the Family Forest Carbon Program. To find out if you are eligible and to learn more about the program, visit familyforestcarbon.org.
The Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) is another way to preserve wooded land. This program can provide landowners with financial assistance, 10-year cost-share agreements, and 30-year, or permanent, easements. Enrolling in HFRP helps to enhance biological diversity, protect threatened and endangered species, and improve carbon sequestration. To qualify for this program, an NRCS environmental assessment must determine eligibility. More information can be found here.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers several programs that support and assist landowners in protecting and improving farmland, forests, grasslands, and more.
Similar to HFRP, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) offers assistance to farmers and ranchers who wish to protect the future viability of vital resources, such as working farms and agricultural lands, through conservation easements. Through the Wetlands Reserve Easements component of ACEP, assistance is available to landowners who want to preserve grasslands and wetlands in order to improve wildlife habitat and to enhance water quality for the surrounding landscape and watershed. More information about ACEP can be found here.
Another useful resource is Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s guide to farm preservation.
The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) offered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission provides landowners with permits to redeem for antlerless deer tags. These ‘coupons’ can be redeemed by you, the landowner, or they can be given to hunters chosen by you for use on your property. Typically, one coupon is granted for every five acres of cultivated land or every 50 acres of non-cultivated land, but it is possible to receive more coupons on a custom basis.
DMAP extends hunting opportunities in the first week after Thanksgiving to include an antlerless harvest during the antlered-only season. Deer management is an effective strategy for encouraging forest regeneration, limiting agricultural damage, and improving wildlife diversity.