Monday, October 24, 2016

Money available for forest and farm land improvements in Spokane River watershed

The Yale Road Fire scorched acres of forest
and farm land in the Hangman Creek
watershed in southeast Spokane County.

Those affected by summer fires   encouraged to apply

Summer fires in the Spokane area burned thousands of acres including forest and farm land. These areas are now prone to erosion, potentially causing big problems for water quality. Fortunately, help is on the way through a timely funding opportunity. The Greater Spokane River Watershed Regional Conservation Partnership Program is getting ready to accept applications and invest more than $15 million
on the ground to improve soil, forest health and protect water quality.

Livestock producers, dry-land farmers, and forestry operations are being encouraged to apply for financial and technical assistance to adopt conservation practices that protect and restore their property. Grants are available for projects within the Spokane River watershed in Idaho and Washington, and on Spokane and Coeur d’ Alene tribal lands.

“The program is available to anyone within the watershed, but we hope those affected by summer fires in the Hangman Creek and Little Spokane River areas apply,” said water quality specialist Elaine Snouwaert. “Soil burned by fire is highly unstable and has to potential to wash into rivers and streams causing water quality problems such as decreasing oxygen needed for fish.”

Landowners can take advantage of several existing conservation improvement programs including the Environmental Quality Incentives, Conservation Stewardship, Agricultural Conservation Easement and Healthy Forest Reserve.
Direct-seed farming is just one way to prevent erosion and improve
water quality. Etman Brothers Farms uses the technique near Valleyford, Wa.

Spokane Conservation District, which is leading the effort, is also introducing a Commodity Buffer Program. It’s a new, innovative approach that compensates landowners, based on crop values rather than the traditional soil rental rate values, for installing stream buffers that improve wildlife habitat and protect water quality.

Learn more about the program

Spokane Conservation District and its partners are hosting informational meetings before the first application period opens on Nov. 1. Landowners and producers have three opportunities to learn more at the following public meetings.

All meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m.:
  • Monday, Oct. 24, at DeSmet Tribal Longhouse, Brynes Road, DeSmet, Idaho. 
  • Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Fairfield Community Center, 218 E. Main St., Fairfield, Wash. 
  • Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Big Barn Brewing Co., 16004 N. Applewood Lane., Mead, Wash.
You can access application materials on the Spokane Conservation District’s website. If you have application questions, email the program coordinator Charlie Peterson at or call 509-535-5274. Idaho residents can also drop off their application materials at their local conservation district or NRCS Field Office.

by Brook Beeler, communications

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