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Federal program may help replace trees lost to Irene

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
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— Trees sent cascading down the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene could be replanted under a program being considered at the federal level, and landowners who might qualify are being urged to apply in case funding comes through.

The USDA Farm Service Agency is accepting requests for the Emergency Forest Restoration Project from property owners until March 26, agency Director Andrew Michael said.

It’s unclear yet how widespread the need may be, but he said it’s common for farmers who make use of FSA programs to have forested land on their properties.

“Traditionally, anybody that has farmland in this part of the world has forest land that goes with it,” Michael said.

The program more often comes into play in southern and western states that sustain damage on plantations, but forests on private land in the Northeast are eligible, as well, he said.

Oftentimes, forest land isn’t used to sell wood, but it helps maintain farmland soils. Michael said that was the case in some instances, but floodwater from Tropical Storm Irene was devastating to some areas.

“The volumes [of water] were just so great ... a lot of the forests are gone,” he said.

The federal program can provide up to 75 percent of the cost of restoration projects, which can include removing debris, site preparation, seeding or restoring conservation structures.

The program is aimed at preventing natural resource degradation or impacts that make the land unusable. Michael said that could include storm damage that left a road in a forest unusable.

In order to be eligible for help, landowners have to file an application for financial assistance and have a walk-through of their property with a representative from the Farm Service Agency County Committee. An evaluation of needs is also required from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Michael said it’s not yet clear when the Farm Service Agency will learn if funding is released to support the program, but it won’t be available to those who do not apply by the March 26 deadline.

People with forest damage can contact the Farm Service Agency office at 853-4031 for more details.

 
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