Federal and State Cost Share Programs

The author of this article, Brian Tison, is a Client Account Manager based in Macon, GA. He has over 10 years experience in forest management.

Did you know the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) offer several cost share and incentive programs to help landowners meet their forestry management goals?

How do Federal and State Cost Share Programs work?

Stemming from the United States’ long historical support of agricultural subsidies, these funds are made possible through The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the 2008 U.S. Farm Bill. In Georgia, the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) administers these federal programs along with a few other state funded programs. We, at Forest Resource Consultants, Inc. (FRC), can assist our private clients in learning about and carrying out these cost share and incentive programs. Several federal and state programs are summarized below for your review.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): Available to all crop producers. Approved forestlands must meet guidelines set by the NRCS, including certification by the Tree Farm System, Green Tag, Smart Wood, Forest Stewardship Council, or Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Approved forestry practices promote soil, water, and air quality as well as other natural resources on their land.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Helps landowners implement various silvicultural practices that promote forest growth and improve environmental quality. Eligible forestry improvement practices include prescribed burning, chemical and mechanical site preparation, tree planting, thinning (pre-commercial and commercial), road improvements, and wildlife management practices.

Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP): Enhances and improves threatened and endangered species recovery, promotes biological diversity, and increases carbon sequestration.

Wildlife Incentives for Nongame and Game Species (Project WINGS): Aids landowners in managing rights-of-way that promote wildlife management. Eligible activities include chemical treatment, planting of native plants, and the use of disking or mowing to promote native vegetation growth.


USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA)

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): Designed to remove highly erodible cropland out of production. The program encourages permanent cover crop planting for soil stabilization. Commonly covered activities include planting of pine, hardwood, and grass, prescribed burning, establishment of and enhancement to wildlife habitats and corridors, and stream management buffers.

Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP): Available to landowners affected by natural disasters, this program focuses on natural resource restoration and land use impeded by natural disasters. Land eligibility is determined by the county FSA assessing the type and extent of damage. Eligible activities include mechanical clearing, herbicide applications, purchasing of seedlings, and reforestation activities.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW): Available to landowners seeking habitat restoration for longleaf, stream management zones, and threatened/endangered species.

A recent phone conversation with Matthew O’Conner, GFC Area 7 County Forester, revealed cost share and incentive programs are quite selective and undergo a vetting process.  Applications are ranked against program criteria.

Underserved producers, including socially disadvantaged, beginning producers, and those with limited resources, are more likely to be selected. Underserved groups can also receive advance payments to implement approved conservation practices. Although cost share and incentive programs are extremely competitive, there are several ways to increase your chances of approval.

Apply early.  Programs like EQIP allow applications to roll-over and are good for two-year periods when approved for mid-management activities like prescribed burning and chemical release. This will give the landowner increased odds of approval through two application periods to secure funding for the prescribed mid-management activity. However, for reforestation costs covered by EQIP, the timber must be harvested before a program application and written plan can be created.

O’Conner encourages landowners to apply to multiple programs at a time. The EQIP and SPB programs offer support for similar forestry-related applications – chemical site prep, reforestation, seedling costs – but while you may apply for more than one program, you can only accept/be rewarded with one cost share or incentive. The SPB program does not allow roll-over applications. Each year, the applicant will need to reapply.


Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC)

Invasive Plant Control Program (IPCP): Aids private, non-industrial landowners in the eradication of nonnative, invasive plants.  Herbicides, mechanical treatment, or a combination of both are the forestry practices covered. Callery pear, chinaberry, Chinese tallow tree, Japanese climbing fern, and privet top Georgia’s current list of invasive species.

Southern Pine Beetle Cost Share Program (SPB): Helps landowners implement various silvicultural practices to suppress and prevent SPB and promote healthy, beetle-resistant forests. Non-commercial thinning, pine release, and prescribed burning are eligible management activities.

Huber “Trees for Georgia” Program: Aids qualified landowners with the purchase of GFC seedlings in the following counties: Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Franklin, Greene, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lincoln, Lumpkin, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Stephens, Taliaferro, Walton, White, and Wilkes.

One Tree Planted – Reforestation Program: Designed to assist landowners in North Georgia with reforestation expenses.

Shortleaf Pine & Oak Restoration in the Georgia Cumberlands Cost Share Project: Offered to landowners seeking to promote shortleaf pine and oak ecosystems. Focused on North Georgia counties, the program seeks forest improvement activities such as prescribed burning, tree planting, chemical applications, and thinning.

South Georgia Landscape Restoration Cost Share Project: Eligible for landowners in 19 counties in southern Georgia including, Appling, Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Decatur, Evans, Glynn, Grady, Liberty, Long, Macon, Marion, McIntosh, Mitchell, Talbot, Tattnall, Taylor, Toombs, and Wayne. A broad spectrum of approved forest activities includes prescribed burning, chemical application, habitat improvement thinning, and forestry mowing.


FRC’s Assistance with Cost Share Implementation

At FRC, we have many tools available within our forestry management arsenal to promote forest stewardship and sustainability practices that help landowners meet their goals. As we foster relationships with private landowners, we are mindful of cost-effective forestry management prescriptions and direct them to educational resources on cost share and incentive program availability.

Once a landowner’s cost share application has been approved, we assist in implementing the contractually required forestry activities. We encourage you to learn more about these federal and state cost share programs by visiting the Southern Group of State Foresters and the Georgia Forestry Commission cost share pages.



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