Agricultural Factors

  • While Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) has been a popular program by which to put in buffers, all federal programs together could not meet the buffer needs declared in state Watershed Implementation Plans. There are nonetheless opportunities to improve CREP to make it more accessible and attractive to landowners.
  • States are developing and implementing flexible buffer programs to complement CREP and reach a broader set of landowners. Additional funding and leadership are needed to support these programs, as well increased capacity to provide outreach and technical assistance to landowners.
  • Forest buffer efforts are limited by a decrease in agricultural lands and unwillingness to sacrifice acreage, especially when commodity crop values spike.

Program Management

  • Increased leadership and coordination at the state level are needed to improve outreach to landowners and emphasize forest buffers as a preferred best management practice.
  • More incentives, technical assistance and education are needed to encourage landowners to establish and/or permanently protect their buffer.
  • Landowners need flexibility, funding and more assistance with issues like maintenance in their buffer programs. States are developing and implementing programs to better meet the needs of landowners.

  • Better coordination among agencies and staff, especially at the state level, would be beneficial.
  • There is a need to simplify and streamline cost-share program application and the implementation process, including clearer communication.
  • It is important to identify opportunities to incentivize the permanent conservation of forest buffers after initial contract periods have ended.