POLK COUNTY — Forestland owners in Polk and surrounding counties are eligible for conservation assistance to help safeguard their properties against wildfire.

Financial assistance for landowners in Polk County is through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s office in Dallas.

Tracy Robillard, spokeswoman for the Portland office of NRCS, said the Environmental Quality Incentives Program was used with success in 2010 by Polk County resident John Engelien. He used the program to thin unhealthy trees, clear brush and used a technique that cuts debris into small pieces to speed decomposition on his forested property. Those efforts made his forest an inhospitable environment for wildfire, Robillard said.

“Because of John Engelien’s efforts to thin his forests, his land was saved from a wildfire back in 2013,,” Robillard said. “With wildfires continuing to be a pressing concern in Oregon, we are hoping to highlight this funding opportunity for landowners in Polk County.”

EQIP reimburses landowners for conservation projects, including managing brush, planting cover crops, creating a forest management plan, improving forest stands, weed control, trees and shrub pruning and other activities.

The amount of reimbursement depends on the project and the amount of forestland involved. Robillard said most activities range from $160 to $1,000 per acre.

“We give higher priority to applications that are in high priority areas for conservation in the county, and we give a higher priority to folks who don’t have a forest management plan, but who are interested in getting a plan for their property,” Robillard said.

For more information, visit the USDA Service Center, 580 Main St. Dallas, suite A, call 503-837-3689, or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.

For more on Engelien’s story, pick up the Sept. 12 Itemizer-Observer, which will have the special inside: “Cultivating Polk County.”

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