CREP program plants 3,258 trees at Sugar Grove farm
Sugar Grove, W.Va. – The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a voluntary land retirement program that helps agricultural producers protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water.
Mountain Springs Farm, in Sugar Grove, is taking advantage of the program. David McConnell is the farm director.
“Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program – in our case, what we’re doing here is – we’re fencing off all the streams on the entire property,” he said. “The fence has to be 35 feet off of the stream bank, but it can be up to 180. And then, of course, the cattle will not be able to get into the stream anymore to drink, so there’s money in the program to develop new water sites. Fortunately, for us, we have seven springs on this farm, so it’s not much of an issue for us.
“And then, they come and plant trees within that boundary. So, the trees are to help stabilize the riparian buffer and we want to save the stream. You know, we’re at the headwaters of the Whitethorn, which eventually forms the Thorn, which dumps into South Branch and it’s a very, very good native brook trout stream.”
Every CREP project is different. In the case of Mountain Springs Farm, the state and local governments, private business and non-profit groups are doing the work.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife builds the fence, but it utilizes Trout Unlimited employees,” McConnell said. “We had a crew from Waynesboro, called Conservation Services, Incorporated, and they brought out a crew of five people and they planted – I think it’s 3,258 trees in just a few days – which was really neat.
“And then, of course, they have tubes around all of them that are phyto-degradable. So, the theory is – they protect the tree up until they don’t need them anymore and then the tube will actually split and fall off.”
Mountain Springs Farm had to pay a small fraction of the cost of planting thousands of hardwood trees and construction of the fence to enclose the stream.
“See, it’s only 10-percent cost share,” McConnell said. “We had to pay 10-percent of this thing and I think it’s 50-percent comes from federal funding and then 40 is state funding.”
The farm director says different trees, such as fruit trees, can be planted at additional cost.
“You can plant your own trees, if you would like, if you have maybe a smaller project,” he said. “And then, you can actually make money from that – the landowner can.”
Fane Irvine, with the Pocahontas County USDA office, says several farmers in Pocahontas County have taken advantage of the CREP program.
“In Pocahontas County, we have about 15 active contracts in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, at the present time,” he said.
Irvine expects the program to be available in the future.
“Currently, we’re between farm bills,” he said. “And when we get a new farm bill, we anticipate that that’s going to be in the new one and will be eligible then. Until we get that, we can’t take any active sign-ups, but we anticipate that that will be available within the next six to eight weeks.”
Mountain Springs Farm is a 560-acre non-profit organization, dedicated to the conservation of the land and the promotion of heritage agriculture.
The farm includes a community center for group visits and conferences. For more information, call 304-249-6200 or Google “Mountain Springs Farm” to find the farm’s Facebook page.
For more information on the CREP program, contact your local USDA office.