COLUMBUS, Ohio, Apr. 24, 2015 – If you own a 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’s equally likely that you may now struggle to find a cerulean warbler, those small sky-blue birds that perch among the treetops. Since 1966, the cerulean warbler population has declined by 70 percent, due primarily to the loss of the habitat they need to reproduce - 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.
The 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. Through EQIP, woodland owners in the project area can receive both technical assistance from professional foresters, and financial assistance to implement conservation measures recommended by the foresters. Conservation measures that promote oak and hickory growth include the control of invasive plant and undesirable trees that out compete 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 for the EQIP Oak Management Program this year. Guernsey county is not included this 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. A list of county office telephone numbers is 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 May 22, 2015. If you are a Noble county landowner, call USDA-NRCS Guernsey/Noble District Conservationist Kim Ray at 740-432-5621 or stop by her office at 1300 Clark St, Unit 10 across from the hospital in Cambridge.