The Spokane Conservation District is looking for regional landowners to volunteer for a conservation program that would compensate them for not growing crops near streams or watersheds on their property.
The conservation district, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Healthy Forest Reserve Program, and other local preservation organizations have committed $15 million to be used over the next five years to also help crop producers and private forest landowners improve soil and forest health, water quality, and wildlife habitat, says Erica Johnson, outreach specialist for the conservation district.
“We think this is a great way to help preserve the environment while helping landowners maintain the economic viability of their land,” Johnson says.
The goal of the effort, called the Commodity Buffer Program, is to reduce and eliminate the runoff of contaminants and pesticides into the region’s water supply.
Financial assistance is being made available to eligible landowners in the Spokane River Watershed, located in parts of Spokane, Stevens, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, and Whitman counties in Washington and in parts of Benewah, Bonner, Clearwater, Kootenai, and Shoshone counties in Idaho, Johnson says.
Those 10 counties encompass nearly 4 million acres across the two states. Approximately 120,000 acres of conservation tillage are expected to be enrolled in the Commodity Buffer Program, Johnson says.
Eligible applicants will work with conservation officials in both states during the fall and winter to develop conservation plans for their land.
The program will provide funding for up to five years for technical assistance to landowners and for on-the-ground projects, she says.
The program will compensate producers based on crop values—rather than standard soil rental rate values—for installing stream buffers, Johnson says.
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