Ottawa County landowners have until March 5, to apply for the Healthy Forest reserve program, sponsored by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Last year, the NRCS was allocated more than $2.3 million to protect and enhance habitat for the threatened and endangered Ozark Big-eared Bat, Gray Bat and the Ozark Cavefish within five northeastern Oklahoma counties, including Ottawa.

“Approximately 4100 acres were tentatively approved for enrollment into the program last year and the opportunity exists for additional acres,” said Oklahoma State Conservationist Ron Hilliard. “The deadline to have applications submitted for consideration for this year’s funding has been set for March 5.”

The primary emphasis of the HFRP in Oklahoma is to encourage forest management and forest restoration activities in areas surrounding bat caves and associated foraging areas of bat populations within the project area, according to Hilliard.

There are three primary enrollment options available to eligible landowners: a 10-year cost-share agreement where the landowner may receive up to 50 percent of the average cost for applying approved conservation practices; a 30 year easement where the landowner may receive 75 percent of the easement value of the enrolled land and up to 75 percent of the average cost of approved restoration practices; or a permanent easement where the landowner may receive 100 percent of the easement value of the enrolled land and up to 100 percent of the average cost of approved restoration practices. An additional enrollment option is available on tribal lands. These lands may be enrolled in a 30 year contract on which compensation will be paid the same as a 30 year easement.

Applications for the program are being accepted, on a continuous basis, from landowners of eligible lands within the HFRP areas of the five designated counties. Applications may be made at your local NRCS Field Service Centers. "

“I strongly encourage anyone who owns timbered land and is interested in preserving their property, to stop by the NRCS office and discuss the program,” said Steven Davied, NRCS District Conservationist in Miami.

The Miami service center is located at 630 Steve Owens Blvd. Davied can be contacted at 918-542-4576.