By Keith Knepp
SYRACUSE — The Wawasee Area Conservation Foundation has announced the receipt of more than a quarter-million dollars in funding from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
The $280,000 acquisition will be used for timber stand and forest improvements on 375 acres of WACF-owned land in the Wawasee Area Watershed. EQIP is overseen by the US Department of Agriculture and managed locally through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Why Timber Stand And Forestry Improvement Is Important For The Watershed
Do you know how to identify the health of a wooded area? According to the WACF, if you are looking into a forest and your view is clear, meaning you can see right through the trees, that likely means the area is healthy. The opposite view, where you are looking at dense brush like honeysuckle, buckthorn and autumn olive, is a sign of an unhealthy forest. These types of brush are considered invasive plants and not only impact the trees and other native plants trying to grow, they also impact animal life as the invasives take over their natural habitat. An unhealthy woods is bad for the entire surrounding ecosystem, including the water. Simply put, in order to have strong healthy watersheds, you must have a strong sustaining ecosystem around it.
In order to be considered for these funds, WACF worked with a forester to create a forestry management plan. This entailed reviewing each of their wooded areas and developing a map and summary of specific improvements needed. This process took over a year to complete, according to the WACF. Their application included a request for the funds needed to implement the specific improvements noted.
“With a project of this scale, it is best phased-in to be efficient and maximize our resources,” noted WACF leaders in the announcement of the allocated funds. “WACF will start with invasive plant removal beginning at our lands in the Knapp Lake area and next we will work our way across our 375 acres of wooded areas. Our properties will be divided up into two groups with staggering start times, with each group taking three years to complete. The total project length is expected to be six years long. Our goal is to not only remove the invasive plants but to also build a sustainable environment to keep the invasives from returning. We are grateful to have the help of Indiana foreester Chris Egolf, who helped us identify best practice tools to make the most of these important funds.
“Protecting and preserving our watershed means we must take action. Thanks to strong support from our donors and organizations like the USDA and NRCS, we are taking action and making change to ensure we have clean water for generations to come.”