Agricultural Factors

  • While Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is by far the most popular program by which to put in buffers, all federal programs together could not meet the buffer needs declared in state Watershed Implementation Plans. Equivalent state programs have not been developed.
  • Fewer agricultural lands and unwillingness to sacrifice acreage especially when commodity crop values spike.
  • Reluctance from landowners to commit to putting forest buffers in place if land will be transferred to the next generation.

Program Management

  • Need for increased coordination at the state level to improve outreach to landowners and greater emphasis on forest buffers as a preferred best management practice.
  • More incentives, technical assistance and education is 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 considering a Natural Filters Restoration Program to address these needs.
  • Better coordination among agencies and staff especially at the state level.
  • Simplified and streamlined cost-share program application and implementation process, clearer communication needs.
  • Greater understanding of why only 53 percent of forest buffer acres are re-enrolling on the expiration of their first 15-year contract.