‘They’ve been a great partner’; N.C. Forest Service cost share programs help woodland owners carry out recommended forest practices

by | May 5, 2023

This article is the third in a series of three articles about financial assistance opportunities offered by the N.C. Forest Service. To read the previous article in this series, visit https://blog.ncagr.gov/2023/04/14/the-cost-share-helps-a-lot-nash-county-landowners-depend-on-financial-assistance-to-remain-good-stewards-of-forestland/  

So far in this series we’ve heard from North Carolina private landowners who have been in the woodland management game for quite some time. We’ve walked in the footsteps of their family history, and they’ve allowed us to see things from their perspective as they’ve prioritized good stewardship of this natural resource. While their journeys have been vastly different, their goals and management objectives share resemblance. Whether they’ve purchased a woodland tract individually, as part of a partnership or it’s been in their family for more than a century, someone somewhere took the first step.

An area of forestland on Bradley’s property that’s been recently thinned and burned.

Purchased in 2018 without any previous family experience with the property, Bennett Bradley and his family live on a 190-acre woodland tract in Edgecombe County. Bradley is currently working with the N.C. Forest Service, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and a consulting forester to implement forest management practices, manage for wildlife habitat and enjoy the recreational opportunities that follow. The N.C. Forest Service encourages private landowners to employ professional consulting foresters to help provide needed forestry services.

Bradley states that since he’s a newcomer to woodland management, he’s relied on the input he’s received from working with these natural resource professionals.

“I’m sort of a rookie at this process so I’m still learning how to best manage the woodlands and which programs are available to help me do that,” Bradley said. “I’ve gotten a lot of good advice.”

One of the programs Bradley recently received financial assistance through is the N.C. Prescribed Burning Cost Share Program administered by the N.C. Forest Service. The program’s requirements focus on compliance with the North Carolina Prescribed Burning Act, which was enacted by the N.C. General Assembly to promote prescribed burning as a beneficial management tool. The N.C. Prescribed Burning Cost Share Program helps provide funding to conduct three types of prescribed burning practices: silvicultural burning, hazard reduction burning and wildlife habitat burning. The burning is typically conducted by a certified burner who is on-site and in charge throughout the burning period. Many of North Carolina’s forests require fire to remain healthy and prescribed fire helps consume surface fuels and undesired vegetation while minimizing tree impacts.

Bennett Bradley and N.C. Forest Service Edgecombe County Ranger Adam Greene

“The N.C. Prescribed Burning Cost Share Program is important because it provides a sustainable source of financial assistance for this important practice,” said Edgecombe County Ranger Adam Greene. “We do a fair bit of prescribed burning in Edgecombe and having a program that prioritizes that specific practice is a pretty big deal.”

The N.C. Prescribed Burning Cost Share Program recently received recurring legislative appropriations that will ensure this program continues to be a beneficial source of financial assistance to woodland owners across the state.

Cost share reimbursement rates are determined by the number of acreage burned and when it is burned. NCFS county staff work with private landowners to help navigate criteria for each cost share program.

“Currently, this program is a dollar-to-dollar match up to 99 acres,” added Greene.” Since Mr. Bradley is burning anywhere from 80 to 90 acres each time, this program basically helps cut his costs in half. That’s a pretty substantial financial gain.”

The prescribed burning operations applied to Bradley’s woodlands are primarily for management of wildlife habitat and hazard reduction.

Many private woodland owners depend on the financial assistance opportunities offered through and administered by the N.C. Forest Service. For some, it just might be what makes actively and successfully managing their woodlands attainable.

“For me it’s about being a good steward of the forestland and leaving a legacy for my three sons and grandson,” added Bradley. “To have that funding come in and help offset some of the cost to continue sound forestry practices, it’s enough financial assistance that will help me feel comfortable about committing to a regularly scheduled burn plan.”

N.C. Forest Service staff provide a variety of services to the residents in their counties which vastly impacts the forestry landscape across the state. Assisting landowners with cost share programs is just one of many services provided by local NCFS county staff. N.C. Forest Service foresters and rangers are also responsible for service areas including but not limited to tree planting, forest health, water quality protection, information and education programs, prescribed burning and fire control.

Bradley is implementing forest management practices, managing for wildlife habitat and enjoying the recreational opportunities that follow.

“I’ve utilized the forest service staff here in Edgecombe to help with the burning that we’ve done previously, and I plan to continue utilizing them for future burns,” said Bradley. “They’ve been very good to work with, very responsive, the knowledge and guidance that they’ve offered and always being available to answer questions,” he continued when asked what he found most valuable about his local NCFS staff.

“They’ve been a great partner.”

For more information about the N.C. Prescribed Burning Cost Share Program, visit https://www.ncforestservice.gov/Managing_your_forest/burncostshare.htm. For information about technical and financial assistance programs offered by the N.C. Forest Service, visit https://www.ncforestservice.gov/Managing_your_forest/pdf/NCFS_Forestry_CS_matrix_2_2023.pdf. To learn how to apply for these financial assistance programs, contact your NCFS county ranger’s office. Contact information is available at http://www.ncforestservice.gov/contacts.