Project breathes fresh air in forest protection

Published 5:46 am Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to support sustainable forests and carbon market development in targeted areas of Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky through the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP).

The HFRP offers financial assistance in the form of easement payments for specific conservation actions on private forest and Tribal lands.

Interested landowners develop a carbon forest project with TNC and get assistance with carbon credit development and marketing as well as potential additional income from the sale of those credits.

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The restored and protected forests also promote biodiversity of plant and animal populations, helping threatened or endangered species like the golden-winged warbler, a focal species for Tennessee.

HFRP offers 30-year term and permanent easement options as well as a 30-year contract for tribal lands. USDA pays 75 percent of the value of land enrolled in 30-year easements, plus 75 percent of the average cost of the approved conservation practices. Landowners opting for permanent easements can receive 100 percent of the easement value of the enrolled land, as well as priority in the ranking process.

“Improving forest management on a regional scale is a win for landowners and the environment,” said Sheldon Hightower, Tennessee State Conservationist. “Integrating an emerging voluntary forest carbon market with HFRP supports local economies and fits seamlessly into our new five-year initiative to improve forestland health in the Appalachia.” Tennessee is offering HFRP through a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project with TNC.

Eligible landowners should submit applications on or before Dec. 30 to be eligible for fiscal year 2020 funding. All HFRP applicants must provide proof of ownership and operators (tenants) must provide written concurrence from the landowner of tenancy for the HFRP restoration agreement period.

To apply for or receive additional information, contact TNC representative Kate Pareigis at: 615 -383-9909, or email her at: You may also contact NRCS Easement Program Manager Allen Persinger, 615-277-2593, or by email at: Or, contact any NRCS field offices serving eligible counties.

For more information about NRCS Farm Bill programs, visit: