June 17, 2024

USDA announces Oak-Hickory Woodland Restoration Project

stars-storyPOMEROY – If you own woodland in southeastern Ohio, it most likely includes oak and hickory trees. It is also likely you’ve noticed a new type of tree growing among the oaks and hickories, the showy and highly invasive non-native tree of heaven.

If you watch birds, it is equally likely that you may struggle to find a cerulean warbler, a small sky-blue bird that perches among the treetops. Since 1966, the population of this warbler has declined by 70 percent, due primarily to the loss oak-hickory forest.

In an effort to restore oak-hickory woodlands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources teamed up to create the Collaborative Oak Management project in southeastern Ohio.

The project area includes the Wayne National Forest and Ohio State Forests, as well as privately held forest land. Approximately 73 percent of the land within the Wayne National Forest is privately owned and interspersed within the forest boundaries. However, the boundaries of private and public land don’t exist for invasive species and wildlife. The Collaborative Oak Management Project provides a mechanism to restore oak-hickory woodlands seamlessly across both public and private land.

Last year, NRCS created a special Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) as part of the Collaborative Oak Management Project to help restoring oak-hickory woodlands owned privately. Woodland owners in the project area can receive both technical assistance from professional foresters, and financial assistance to implement conservation measures recommended by foresters using EQIP. Conservation measures that promote oak and hickory growth include the control of invasive plants and undesirable trees that outcompete oaks and hickories.

Woodland owners in Adams, Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Scioto, Vinton, Morgan, Monroe, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross and Washington counties may apply for the EQIP Oak Management program. Ohio NRCS allocated $300,000 again this year for the EQIP Oak Management Program.

Oak-hickory woodlands across the project area are at a tipping point in our life-times. Private woodland owners, the U.S. Forest Service, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and NRCS have a chance right now to help the forest become a healthy oak-hickory forest instead of something else altogether.

Individuals interested in applying for the EQIP Oak Management program should make an appointment with the local NRCS conservationist to start the application process. In Meigs County, woodland owners can contact Carrie Crislip, NRCS district conservationist, at 740-992-4282 or stop in at the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District-NRCS Office at 113 East Memorial Drive, Pomeroy, across from the old Veterans Memorial Hospital building, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A list of county office telephone numbers is also available on-line at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/oh/contact/local/.

To receive consideration for funding this year, apply by March 18..