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Conservation Stewardship Program for Forest Landowners

Posted: January 13, 2017

Do you own or manage private forest land and have land management goals you would like to take to the next level? The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) may help you achieve your goals.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), managed by NRCS, is the largest conservation program in the United States. Through CSP, private forest landowners and operators, as well as agricultural producers, can earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities on their property. All CSP contracts receive an annual minimum payment of $1500 with contracts lasting five years. In return, the landowner or operator agrees to pick and install one or more activities geared at improving and expanding existing sustainable conservation efforts on their lands, such as improving forest health and expanding wildlife habitat.

Nationwide more than 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land are enrolled in CSP. This program is an enormous, concentrated effort to conserve and improve natural resources throughout the country. This means that thousands of farmers and non-industrial private forest landowners have made the choice to voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their land management operations.  
For 2017, NRCS redesigned CSP to make it easier to understand, more flexible, and more accommodating to local priorities. The new process encourages more engagement between the producer and the NRCS planner right from the start of the application process, which helps the producer make informed decisions aligned with conservation goals for their operations. 

If you decide to enroll in CSP, a local NRCS planner will have a one-on-one consultation with you to evaluate your current management system and the land’s natural resources. Then the NRCS planner will present a variety of CSP enhancement alternatives for you to consider implementing, based on conservation practices already in place. The variety of CSP conservation activities offered give you the freedom to select enhancements or practices that will help you meet your management goals. These improvements work naturally with your land to bring out your land’s best potential. Once you choose the enhancements that best fit your operation, CSP offers annual incentive payments for installing these enhancements.

These conservation efforts on private lands benefit all of us through improved water and air quality, increased soil health, and improved wildlife habitat, to name just a few. CSP is a program for working farms and non-industrial private forest lands, and it taps into the landowner’s deep-rooted commitment to conservation. 

NRCS is currently accepting applications for CSP through February 3, 2017. Please contact your local NRCS office for more information.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

Contact Information

Peter Hoagland
  • State Forester, USDA NRCS
Gary Gilmore
  • Forest Stewardship Program Coordinator, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry