Conservation Opportunities For Landowners

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If you own land, you have opportunities to improve the environment and the value of your property at the same time. Autumn is a great time to explore these opportunities and make plans to implement conservation through the winter and into the spring of 2021.

The more land you own, the more opportunities for conservation you likely have. For the homeowner with a few acres or less, environmental improvements can be as simple as planting native trees and plants that provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators. If you have more land, the opportunities expand.

With more acreage, there are benefits to the environment by ensuring adequate soil fertility and vigorous vegetative cover on all soils. If the property has a spring, wetland, pond, or other water course, there are additional conservation options and, many would urge, a responsibility to implement practices that best protect the water resource.

Now is the time to make plans for implementing conservation on your property because late winter and early spring is the best time to plant bare-root seedlings. Any construction projects such as exclusion fences or water troughs for livestock require forward planning to develop the best design and secure materials and expertise for any conservation practice. There are both state and federal government programs that will cover a significant portion and, in some cases, all of the cost of conservation practices but participation in these programs is voluntary.

Where to begin? If you are a landowner who rents your land to a farmer, I think its best that you first communicate with your farmer tenant about your desire and intention to implement conservation practices on your farm. Conservation stewardship requires effort and maintenance and sometimes the success of a conservation practices hinges on the participation of the farm operator. Farmers appreciate conservation practices, but it can take a period of years to capture the benefits of these practices. The landowner and farmer-tenant should consider the conservation investment and what lease terms can benefit both parties.

Next, there is free assistance available from both state and federal agencies with no obligation. Contact the Natural Bridge Soil and Water Conservation District at 463-7124, ext. 5, or at naturalbridgeswcd@ vaswcd.org. This is an agency funded by the state of Virginia and localities with oversight from a local elected board.

You can also get assistance from the Natural Resource Conservation Service at 463-7124, ext. 3. This is a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both these offices have conservation experts on staff that will visit your farm or forest property free of charge and with no obligation. They can offer technical advice and ideas to enhance soil and water protection on your farm.

Additional information for conservation practices, land rental agreements, improving soil fertility or weed control, or other good practices are available through the Rockbridge Extension office at 463-4734 or by email to stanleyt@vt.edu.

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