The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a federal agency under the Department of Agriculture, has created a cost-share program to fund dead tree removals within 100-foot defensible space zones around habitable structures.
Funded through 2022, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is being implemented through resource conservation districts (RCD) within the 10 high hazard tree mortality counties, including Calaveras.
The RCPP provides technical assistance to people with larger properties (20 to 40 acres) where tree mortality has had a significant impact or where a landowner wants to know more about his or her options for management. Essentially, it covers the total cost of preparing a forest management plan by a registered professional forester that will qualify a landowner for financial assistance through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
In order to qualify, private forest landowners must have at least one dead standing conifer (pine, cedar, spruce, etc.) on their property.
For landowners living in Amador, Calaveras or Tuolumne Counties, the regional forester that will be conducting site visits is Calaveras County Resource Conservation District (CCRCD) Executive Director Gordon Long. He clarified that in addition to full tree removals, the program provides funding for pruning, forest thinning of small live trees, tree planting and herbicide application, among other services.
The cost breakdown between landowners and the federal contribution depends on a few factors, Long said.
The program can pay about $800 per large dead tree within a 100-foot defensible space zone. If outside that zone, the funding provided is based on acreage. That can run anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per acre, depending on slope, proximity to streambeds and other specifics.
Long said interested landowners should apply by August or September at the latest.
“This is a real opportunity for folks with dead trees on their property that they can’t afford to remove,” Richard Harris, Calaveras County Tree Mortality Program manager, said in a July 9 phone interview.
Funding has not been available for landowners for dead tree removals since a Calaveras Foothills Firesafe Council grant program ended in February, he added.
Regarding updates to the county’s tree mortality program, hazardous tree removal projects along county roads were completed in the West Point, Glencoe, Rail Road Flat and Wilseyville areas, in addition to projects on U.S. Forest Service land adjoining county roads. Projects are wrapping up at Big Trees Village, Sky High Ranch, Sherman Acres and Cottage Springs, and new projects are underway or will soon begin west of Highway 49, north of West Point and in the Blue Lake Springs and Arnold areas.
For more information on the NRCS program, landowners should reach out to Long at 791-0286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.