In Oregon, there are dozens of voluntary programs that contribute to habitat conservation across the state. Government programs can be funded and administered by the state, federally-funded but state-administered, or federally-funded and administered. Some private or nonprofit organizations also offer conservation incentives.
State Voluntary Conservation Programs
This program, administered by the ODFW, provides direct funding to improve wildlife habitat, increase public hunting access to private lands, or solve wildlife damage issues. Projects can be implemented on private or public lands. Projects include improvement of vegetation on wild lands, development of wetland habitat, noxious weed control, improving wildlife forage on private lands, development of water in arid regions, reclamation of habitat by vehicular restrictions, seeding after wildfire, hunting leases, land acquisition, seasonal road management and hunter access through private lands to inaccessible public lands, or fencing to control wildlife or livestock. Projects are given high priority if they reduce economic loss to landowners and involve funding commitments or in-kind contributions from other organizations and agencies.
This program provides property tax benefits and technical assistance to landowners. Participating counties and cities identify farmland, forestland, and/or other significant habitats and ask the ODFW to designate these lands as eligible for the program. An eligible landowner develops a fish and wildlife management plan approved by ODFW. The property receives a wildlife habitat special assessment, and is assessed for property taxes as if the land was being farmed or used for commercial forestry. Farming and forestry may continue, as long as they are compatible with fish and wildlife objectives of the management plan. For most landowners, this program allows their property to be used for conservation, and the property shifts from farm or forest special assessment to wildlife habitat special assessment. The program does not provide cost-share, grant, or rental payments to landowners. Leaving the program may obligate the landowner to back taxes if the property is not eligible for another special assessment category.
The Restoration and Enhancement Program is a grant program that provides $2-3 million per year to fishery projects throughout Oregon. It supports increased recreational fishing opportunities and works to improve the commercial salmon fishery. The restoration program focuses on projects to repair and replace fish production equipment and facilities, and on collecting information on physical and biological characteristics of streams, lakes, or estuaries. The enhancement program focuses on projects to increase fish production (either hatchery or natural production), increase recreational or commercial opportunities or access to the fish resources, or improve fish management capabilities. Any public or private nonprofit organization may request funds to implement fish restoration or enhancement projects.
Oregon water users may be eligible for an ODFW cost-share incentive program and state tax credit designed to promote the installation of agency-approved fish screening or fish passage devices in water diversions. Funds for fish screening and passage projects are to be used to share costs with applicants.
This property tax program offers a property tax exemption for riparian land up to 100 feet from a stream. Landowners conserve and restore riparian lands to protect the economic and ecological benefits to soil, water, fish, and wildlife. For riparian land to qualify for this program, it must be outside adopted urban growth boundaries, and zoned for forest or agricultural use. Landowners within urban growth boundaries may qualify if individual cities choose to participate.
This program provides direct technical support to watershed councils and private landowners in western Oregon to implement Oregon Plan measures directing the restoration and enhancement of Oregon’s salmonid habitats in the region.
ODF and ODA Stewardship Agreement Program
A landowner may enter into a voluntary stewardship agreement with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and/or the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), whereby they agree to meet and exceed applicable regulatory requirements and to conserve, restore, and improve fish and wildlife habitat or water quality. A stewardship agreement is a voluntary written plan, with authority designated within state statutes, whereby a landowner agrees to meet the natural resource protection standards of the Oregon Forest Practices Act through alternate practices. The program provides incentives for landowners who voluntarily meet and exceed regulatory requirements to improve wildlife habitat and water quality. Landowners and the State Forester work collaboratively to create long-term agreements that consider natural resource conservation and routine forest management from a property-wide perspective, rather than at the scale of single projects. Stewardship Agreements were authorized by the 2006 Oregon legislature. The legislative change recognized that in a time of dynamic change in scientific information and social values, improvements to fish and wildlife habitat and water quality cannot succeed through laws and government actions alone. The program was developed to enhance what the legislature described as a characteristically Oregonian “spirit of volunteerism and stewardship”.
Since 1999, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) has provided grants to help Oregonians take care of local streams, rivers, wetlands, and natural areas. Community members and landowners use scientific criteria to decide jointly what needs to be done to conserve and improve rivers and natural habitat in the places where they live. OWEB grants are funded from the Oregon Lottery, federal dollars, and salmon license plate revenue. The OWEB’s strategic plan (2010) is intended to provide high-level strategic guidance and direction to help restore and protect Oregon’s watersheds in light of significant driving forces like human use, population growth, urbanization, and climate change, and ensures priorities are aligned with those developed in the Conservation Strategy.
Types of grants in the regular grant program include:
Federal Conservation Programs in Oregon
Farm Bill Programs
The Agricultural Act of 2014 (The Farm Bill) is a comprehensive federal bill which is reauthorized every five years. The most recent reauthorization was in 2014. The Farm Bill is among the largest sources of conservation funding in the federal government. It provides producers with financial and technical assistance and promotes conservation stewardship. The Bill provides funding through such programs as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). Hundreds of millions of dollars are available to private landowners to keep wetlands, grasslands, and other fragile lands protected as wildlife habitat.
The CRP pays farmers annual rental payments under 10-15 year contracts to set aside marginal land. The GRP is a voluntary program that enables landowners to restore or protect native grasslands on portions of their property. Grasslands are valuable wildlife habitat currently in decline. WRP allows interested farmers the opportunity to restore, maintain, and protect wetlands on their property. Most lands restored under WRP are marginal, high risk, flood-prone lands that wouldn’t be suitable for growing crops. The WRP enables landowners to take these lands out of production and restore them to beneficial use as wetland wildlife habitat.
- All Farm Bill 2014 Programs
- A Guide to the Farm Bill Conservation Programs, prepared by Defenders of Wildlife
- Payments for Wildlife and Biodiversity Outcomes under Farm Bill Programs, prepared by Defenders of Wildlife
- 2014 Farm Bill Field Guide to Fish and Wildlife Conservation, prepared by North American Bird Conservation Initiative, is a tool to assist the staff of federal and state fish and wildlife agencies, non-governmental conservation organizations, joint ventures, and other conservation partners in implementing Farm Bill conservation programs. It is primarily designed for those who work collaboratively with private landowners and agricultural producers to improve soil health, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps Indian tribes, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps to restore, protect, and enhance enrolled wetlands.
The focus of the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) is to encourage landowners to manage their land for sustainable, profitable timber harvests while promoting forest conditions that improve habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl. Participating landowners will receive long-term assurances that no additional regulatory restrictions under the Endangered Species Act will be imposed beyond the current, baseline conditions if they follow a plan that benefits Northern Spotted Owls. In Oregon, HFRP has enrolled lands in Lane, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Curry, and Jackson Counties. HFRP is a voluntary program established for the purpose of restoring and enhancing forest ecosystems to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, improve biodiversity, and enhance carbon sequestration.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is administered by the NRCS and aims to promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. The program provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices on their lands. EQIP has four national priorities: reducing non-point source water pollution, reducing air emissions, reducing soil erosion, and promoting habitat for at-risk species. Each state develops more specific statewide and local priorities. Private land in agricultural production is eligible for this program with an approved plan and a contract for one to ten years. Practices are based on a set of national priorities that are adapted to each state.
The NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance – the higher the performance, the higher the payment.
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements.
Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies, while leveraging federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection. Under CIG, EQIP funds are used to award competitive grants to non-federal governmental or non-governmental organizations, tribes, or individuals.
The Forest Legacy Program is administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and individual states to protect private forestlands from conversion to non-forest uses, and to ensure that both economic uses of private forestlands and the public benefits they provide are protected for future generations. Forestland can be conserved through purchase of a conservation easement, which acquires the landowner’s development rights and allows the land to remain in private ownership, or through purchase in fee simple. Each state develops an assessment of need that identifies high-priority private forestlands to protect. To receive federal funding, states submit an application package to the USFS, which uses a competitive process in distributing grant funds. The program funds up to 75 percent of project costs.
The program operates in designated Forest Legacy Areas where important forests may be lost to non-forest uses. The Forest Legacy Program seeks projects that strengthen local communities through state, local, and private partnerships in conservation. Landowner participation in the Forest Legacy Program is voluntary. In 2001, an Assessment of Need for Oregon was developed cooperatively by the ODF, the Oregon Natural Heritage Program, and the USFS. The assessment identified 15 Forest Legacy Areas where private forestland is significantly threatened by potential conversion to residential, urban, and other non-forest uses within the next 10 years. The Forest Legacy Areas, which cover about 13 percent of Oregon’s private forestland, were chosen to focus efforts where important forest resources are at risk. Ecological, social, and economic factors were considered in identifying and prioritizing the Forest Legacy Areas.
The 15 Forest Legacy Areas occur in 5 ecoregions: Coast Range (2), Willamette Valley (6), Klamath Mountains (3), East Cascades (3), and Blue Mountains (1). The habitat priorities in each ecoregion correspond closely to the forest Strategy Habitats identified in this document.
- Coast Range: Forest Legacy Areas include forest habitats dominated in different areas by Sitka spruce, shore pine, Port-Orford cedar, Oregon white oak, tan oak, grand fir, Douglas-fir, and coast redwood. Other important habitats include wetlands, saltmarshes, and coastal dunes.
- Willamette Valley: Forest Legacy Areas include oak woodlands, oak savannas, riparian and floodplain forests, mixed forests, and conifer forests. Forest Legacy Areas cover most of the Willamette Valley because these forest types occur across the landscape and most of this ecoregion is privately-owned.
- Klamath Mountains: Forest Legacy Areas include oak woodlands, oak savannas, white oak/black oak/madrone forests, low-elevation ponderosa pine forests and woodlands, mixed forests, riparian bottomland forests, knobcone pine, Jeffrey pine, Port-Orford cedar, and canyon live oak.
- East Cascades: Forest Legacy Areas include oak woodlands, oak savannas, oak/ponderosa pine forests, ponderosa pine forests and woodlands, and riparian and wetland habitats.
- Blue Mountains: Forest Legacy Areas include riparian and bottomland woodlands with cottonwood, alder, aspen, and spruce.
This program provides funding to promote conservation of wetlands and associated habitats for migratory birds, fish, and other wildlife. A funded grant, with partner match, serves as a four-year plan of action to conserve wetlands and wetland-dependent fish and wildlife through acquisition, easements, restoration, and/or enhancement. The application process is rigorous but provides substantial funding, between $50,000 and $1,000,000. A small grants program designed as a stepping stone to help applicants prepare for larger projects provides grants up to $50,000. Projects must include adequate wetlands-associated uplands to buffer and protect conserved wetlands and to meet the needs of wetland-associated fish and wildlife.
This USFWS program provides cost-share funding and/or technical assistance for voluntary restoration of fish and wildlife habitats on private land (including non-state and non-federal land). Projects are designed to restore native habitat to function as naturally as possible, preferably resulting in a self-sustaining system. Projects focus on habitats that benefit migratory birds, migratory fish, or federally-threatened and endangered species, or on habitats that are designated as globally- or nationally-imperiled. High priority projects also complement habitat functions on National Wildlife Refuges, occur in areas identified by state fish and wildlife agencies and other partners, or reduce habitat fragmentation.
There is no formal application process. Instead, an interested landowner contacts the state program coordinator and they work together, along with public and private conservation partners, to develop the project. Program funds are used for sharing restoration project costs and are not available to lease, rent, or purchase property. Landowners commit to retain the restoration project for at least 10 years.
Funding for this program is allocated for all states, with $36 million available nationally in 2015. In Oregon, this program restores wetlands, oak savanna, floodplain, wet prairie, shrub-steppe, riparian areas, and in-stream habitat restoration and fish passage in numerous areas around the state.
State Wildlife Grants and Teaming with Wildlife
Through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, the USFWS provides annual grants to states, territories, and tribes to support cost-effective conservation aimed at keeping wildlife from becoming endangered. The funding is allocated based on land area and population, with Oregon receiving about $863,000 in 2014 and almost $13 million since the program began. In 2014, about $58 million was available to the states, while about $4 million was available to federally-recognized tribes. Currently, these funds are used to support planning and implementation of key fish and wildlife efforts by funding ODFW staff positions. A comprehensive summary of grant programs administered by the USFWS can be found here.