Medina Journal-Register — SYRACUSE — Donald Pettit, State Conservationist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) in New York State, has announced the establishment of an American Indian “Tribal Set-aside” initiative that will direct a portion of New York’s USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) allocation for use specifically on tribal and American Indian Nation lands within New York.
“Other states with sizeable Indian Nation holdings and reservations have used this approach very successfully for many years,” said Pettit. “We feel there is enough interest and need on tribal lands in New York to give this strategy a try here in hopes of supporting Indian Nation conservation priorities through the USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program.” The conservation practices and conservation activity plans (CAPs) available under the set-aside will include all practices and plans offered in all EQIP funding codes with an emphasis on soil health, wildlife habitat enhancement and forest management.
Pettit added that these set-aside funds will only be available to qualifying tribal government applicants or tribal members managing lands within the territories of the eight federally recognized American Indian tribes and nations in New York. These include the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Tonawanda Seneca Nation, the Tuscarora Indian Nation, the Cayuga Nation of New York, the Onondaga Nation, the Oneida Indian Nation, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, and the Shinnecock Indian Nation. Individuals of American Indian ancestry managing lands off of tribal territories can apply under the program’s “historically underserved” applicant category. Non-American Indian operators of tribal lands may be eligible as participants in Tribal set-aside EQIP contracts provided tribal governments or members are also participants in the contracts.
“At this time, we’re directing $250,000 to this first year of our Tribal Set-aside initiative in order to start building interest as we work out the details of the application and contracting process,” said Pettit. He added, “In order to provide applicants adequate time to work through the application process, we have spread out our deadlines compared to our regular program contracting deadlines.”
Tribal set-aside applications will be due by April 18. Internal agency application ranking work will be completed by May 16. The contract obligation deadline will be July 18.
Tribal government representatives and individual tribal members interesting in program applications or more details should contact their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office.