The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) presents a significant shift in how the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides conservation program payments. CSP participants will receive an annual land use payment for operation-level environmental benefits they produce. Under CSP, participants are paid for conservation performance: the higher the operational performance, the higher their payment.
The CSP has been re-designed in recent years and is now more friendly to smaller landowners. However, there is still a high bar to enter the program, and it requires landowners to work closely with NRCS staff to design conservation programs for the land.
The essence of the program is an annual payment to reward conservation efforts and encourage additional conservation activities. These activities are also called "enhancements" because they enhance the ongoing conservation practices of the landowner.
From the NRCS website:
Enhancements are management activities that go above and beyond the minimum conservation practice standard requirements helping the producer achieve a higher level of conservation.
A new NRCS CSP Enhancement now supports biochar production as part of larger activities around vegetation management. Here is a summary of the new biochar enhancement:
Enhancement Code: E384135Z
- Resource Concern: DEGRADED PLANT CONDITION
- Cause of Resource Concern: Wildfire Hazard, Excessive Biomass Accumulation
- Title of Enhancement: Biochar production from woody residue
- Enhancement Description: Utilizes woody debris remaining after fuel reduction harvests or wildfires to create biochar. Biochar stores carbon and is a useful soil amendment that improves SOM and water-holding capacity.
And a detailed description of the E384135Z Biochar Enhancement: Download E384135Z update
The payment for this enhancement is on a per acre basis. Payment is listed on line 335 of this NRCS payment schedule: Download FY18_CStwP_01192018
In order to take advantage of this opportunity, landowners will have to have a good idea of how to implement the biochar activities supported. This will require knowledge of how to use biochar kilns, how to prepare and stage feedstocks, and how to integrate biochar logistics into a logging or vegetation management plan.
Wilson Biochar Associates produced a recent report for the North Dakota Forest Service as an example of how to estimate resource needs and costs for this kind of biochar activity. This report was based on experiences working with UBET members on various projects, including our Drew Veg Project:
Download WBA Converting Shelterbelt to BiocharLoRes