Farmers and ranchers have until Feb. 6 to apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), cost-sharing programs administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service that provide financial assistance for conservation practices.
"Over the years, these programs have brought quite a bit of money into the county," said Rick Stephenson, district conservationist with the NRCS.
EQIP, which began in 1997, provides up to half the cost of a project for farmers and ranchers who wish to institute conservation practices such as irrigation improvement or seeding to increase wildlife foraging.
WHIP encourages the creation of wildlife habitat by providing participants with 75 percent funding for wildlife projects, such as seeding for permanent vegetation and wildlife tree planting.
"Even though EQIP also funds wildlife projects, WHIP is more lucrative for people who want to apply wildlife practices," Stephenson said.
By accepting funds from these programs, farmers and ranchers agree to abide by the funded conservation practices for the duration of the contract.
Local rancher Andy Peroulis has contracted with EQIP for several years to work on water development projects and sagebrush conservation.
Rick Tingle, a rancher in Maybell, said EQIP helped him install a water pipeline and replant grass where crops had previously been.
Stephenson said 45 potential applicants have contacted the NRCS office. NRCS accepts as many participants as funding allows. When an application is submitted, an NRCS employee visits the project site to determine the project's feasibility and environmental benefit.
Applications are selected based on a ranking system that determines the potential value of a project to its region. The Yampa and White River watersheds are priority regions for the NRCS, Stephenson said.
In 2003, the farm bill limited EQIP funds, so only four local contracts were signed. But in previous years, 10 to 20 landowners have been able to participate in the program.
The local NRCS office signed one WHIP contract last year. Funding for that program is still open for 2004.
Interested participants should contact the local NRCS office at at 824-3476.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.