Members of numerous supporting agencies visited local farms last week that are participating in the Elk River Watershed Buffer Initiative.
The visit comes approximately one year after the program was implemented.
Folks across the county have probably noticed acres of buffers, or “white tubes” holding vegetation, on properties across the area. Several producers across Lincoln County have installed these buffers, and visits were made Thursday to three of those, the John Smith property on Old Lincoln Road, the Fran Miller farm on Duck Branch Road and the Larry Barnes property on Shelbyville Highway.
The program was established in an effort to improve water quality in the Elk River watersheds for fish and wildlife, livestock and our communities as a whole. The Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and The Nature Conservancy/National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with many other agencies, sponsored the financial incentives to establish new riparian buffers along streams and creeks feeding into the Elk River.
The buffers were part of the Conservation Reserve Program’s Continuous Signup, a program managed by Farm Service Agency. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), along with local Soil Conservation Districts, conducted the planning and design of the buffers.
Trees were planted on 10-foot by 10-foot spacing, with approximately 436 trees per acre, and shrubs were planted on 8-foot by 8-foot grid spacing, with approximately 680 stems per acre.
Landowners from Lincoln, Giles, Franklin, and Moore counties had an opportunity to receive a one-time incentive of $1,500 per acre for native warm season grass wildlife habitat buffers and $1,700 per acre for tree buffers established under 10 to 15 year contracts.
Along with receiving these one-time incentives, the producers also received the following from the Farm Service Agency: $100/acre signing incentive; 50% Cost Share to establish the buffers; Practice Incentive Payment equal to 40% of the total eligible cost of practice installation; Annual Rental Rate Payments for the life of the contract (10 to 15 years).
The one-time partner incentives were only available until funds ran out. The incentive funds were available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and were limited to the following 13 watersheds in Franklin, Lincoln, Moore and Giles counties: Beans Creek Lower, Cane Creek Lower, Farris Creek, East Fork Mulberry Creek, Elk River-Coffee Creek, Elk River-Dukes Creek, Elk River-Lees Creek, Larkin Springs Branch, Murrell Creek, Norris Creek, Richland Creek-Petty Branch, Richland Creek-Silver Creek, and West Fork Mulberry Creek.
The partners are currently working together to try to get more funds so they can continue this initiative in the Elk River and Duck River Watershed.
Incentive payments made and acres by county are as follows: Franklin County, $28,815 with 19.21 grass acres; Giles County, $100,380 with 66.92 grass acres; Lincoln County, $168,119 with 13.23 grass acres and 87.22 tree acres; and Moore County, $18,166 with 10.696 tree acres.
Last week’s visit included representatives from several agencies, as well as a camera crew from Tennessee Uncharted, a television show produced in partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and seen on TWRA.tv and PBS stations across the state. Visitors to area properties last week included Erick Baker, host of Tennessee Uncharted; Laura Hall, Lincoln County Soil Conservation District (LCSCD); Brandi Boughton, Farm Service Agency (FSA), Nashville State Office; Shannon O’Quinn and Evan Crews, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Pat Gibson, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Patty Taylor, FSA Nashville State Office; Corey Giles, The Natures Conservancy (TNC); Emmett Kunz, Emily Stefanick and Ben Myers, Panther Creek Forestry; Mitchell Aman, NRCS Lincoln/Moore counties; Joey Ashby, FSA Lincoln County; Mark Gudlin and Clint Borum, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.