Maine is one of three states nationally where the program is available.
The primary focus of HFRP in Maine is to enhance the management of Spruce-Fir and Northern Hardwood-Spruce forests to promote the recovery of the federally-threatened Canada lynx and to enhance the biodiversity and environmental quality using sustainable forests management practices.
Maine developed three contracts from fiscal year 2006 applications addressing 494,000 acres with landowners who agreed to develop and implement forest management plans which incorporate management guidelines specifically designed to benefit the Canada lynx.
Established in 1862, the Department of Agriculture serves all Americans through anti-hunger efforts, stewardship of nearly 200 million acres of national forest and rangelands, and through product safety and conservation efforts. The USDA opens markets for American farmers and ranchers and provides food for needy people around the world.
In FY 2007 NRCS has enrolled approximately 196,000 acres in the program in Arkansas, Maine, and Mississippi.
Uses and Use Restrictions
HFRP restoration agreements and easements are designed for working Agricultural lands.
Easements and Agreements shall be maintained in accordance with HFRP goals and objectives for the duration of the restoration agreement and easement including the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management of habitat for listed species within a forest ecosystem's functions and values.
For the duration of its term, the easement shall require, at a minimum, that the landowner, and the landowner's heirs, successors and assigns, shall cooperate in the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management of the land in accordance with the easement and with the terms of the HFRP restoration plan.
In addition, the easement shall grant to the United States, through the NRCS: A right of access to the easement area; The right to permit compatible uses of the easement area, which may include such activities as hunting and fishing, managed timber harvest, or periodic haying or grazing, if such use is consistent with the long-term protection and enhancement of the purposes for which the easement was established; The right to determine compatible uses on the easement area and specify the amount, method, timing, intensity and duration of the compatible use; The rights, title and interest to the easement area as specified in the conservation easement deed; and The right to perform restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management activities on the easement area.
The landowner shall convey title to the easement which is acceptable to the NRCS.
The landowner shall warrant that the easement granted to the United States is superior to the rights of all others, except for exceptions to the title which are deemed acceptable by the NRCS.
To be eligible to enroll an easement or restoration agreement in the HFRP, a person must: Be the landowner of eligible private land for which enrollment is sought.
Agree to provide such information to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as the agency deems necessary or desirable to assist in its determination of eligibility for program benefits and for other program implementation purposes.
Be the landowner of eligible land for which enrollment is sought; and agree to provide such information to NRCS as the agency deems necessary or desirable to assist in its determination of eligibility for program benefits and for other program implementation purposes.
Aplication and Award Process
Any owner meeting eligibility criteria may submit an application for participation.
Applications are accepted in local USDA Service Center Offices during announced enrollment sign-up dates.
USDA will establish criteria to evaluate and rank applications for easement and restoration agreement enrollment.
Individual project selection will be made by State level USDA officials.
NRCS will identify through a sign-up notice process the geographic scope and ranking priorities for that particular sign-up.
This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.
Applications are accepted in local USDA Service Center Offices during announced enrollment sign-up dates. Applicants are required to provide general information about the location of the project, contact information for the applicant, and designate the type of enrollment desired by the applicant (i.e., 10 year restoration agreement, 30 year easement or 99 year easement). Applications can be obtained through local USDA Service Center.
NRCS will not acquire any easement unless the landowner accepts the amount of the easement payment which is offered by NRCS. The easement payment may or may not equal the fair market value of the interests and rights to be conveyed by the landowner under the easement. By voluntarily participating in the program, a landowner waives any claim to additional compensation based on fair market value.
NRCS will only accept applications for enrollment during announced sign-up periods.
Title V of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003, 16 U.S.C. Sections 6571-6578.
Range of Approval/Disapproval Time
Within a Federal fiscal year (October 1 September 30) based on funding availability.
A person participating in the HFRP may obtain a review of any administrative determination concerning eligibility for participation utilizing the administrative appeal regulations provided in 7 CFR Part 614.
The land offered may be re-offered in a future sign-up unless land or landowner is ineligible.
Formula and Matching Requirements
Lump sum or annual easement payments made in no more than 10 annual payments of equal or unequal size, as agreed to between NRCS and the landowner.
Length and Time Phasing of Assistance
Restoration Agreements of 10 years, Easements duration is either 30-years, 99-years, or the maximum duration permitted by State law. Financial assistance for easement acquisition is provided at closing. For restoration agreements, payments are made annually on the agreement anniversary date of USDA approval. For both easements and restoration agreements, if restoration activities are required, financial assistance for such activities is provided when required practices are established. Technical assistance is available for the length of the easement or restoration agreement.
Post Assistance Requirements
Recipients are subject to audit by the Office of Inspector General, USDA.
Records will be maintained in the county NRCS office, State NRCS office and Federal Record Centers for the length of the agreement. The easement (deed restriction) and applicable documents will be filed in the local land records office for the duration of the easement. Agreements are filed with the Agency.
(Financial Assistance) FY 07 $2,351,300; FY 08 est $2,351,300; and FY 09 est not reported. (Technical Assistance) FY 07 $124,700; FY 08 est. $124,700; and FY 09 est not reported.
Range and Average of Financial Assistance
In FY 2006 NRCS had $2.3 million available to fund the program in three states. The average estimated cost per acre for easement acquisition was approximately $1,048.
Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature
The program is announced through news media and in letters to agricultural landowners in the county. Regulations published in the Federal Register (Interim Final Rule) and 7 CFR Part 625.
Regional or Local Office
Local Service Centers can be found in the blue pages of the local telephone directory under the heading USDA Service Center or through the office locator assistance on the NRCS website found at www.nrcs.usda.gov.
Thomas W. Christensen, Deputy Chief for Programs, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture, 14th and Independence Ave., S.W., Room 5109-S, Washington, DC 20250. Telephone: (202) 720-4527. Robin Heard, NRCS, Director, Easements Programs Division, Room 6819-S, Telephone: (202) 720-1875; Ross Lahren, NRCS, Branch Chief, Easements Programs Division, Room 6809-S, (202) 720-0123; Astor Boozer, NRCS, Healthy Forests Reserve Program Manager, Room 6813-S, Telephone: (202) 720-1836.
Criteria for Selecting Proposals
The Secretary of Agriculture shall give priority to the enrollment of land that provides the greatest conservation benefit to primarily, species listed as endangered or threatened under 16 U.S.C. 1533; and secondarily, species that are not listed as endangered or threatened under 16 U.S.C. 1533; but are candidates for such listing, State-listed species, or special concern species. The Secretary of Agriculture shall also consider the cost-effectiveness of each agreement or easement, and associated restoration plans, so as to maximize the environmental benefits per dollar expended.