Farmland could revert to native flora


POSTED: Monday, February 02, 2009

KAPAA, Kauai » The state and federal governments announced a partnership Wednesday to convert marginal pastureland and cropland into native forests and wetlands.

The project, led by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pay landowners to convert land to native trees, shrubs, grasses and other vegetation or to carry out wetland restoration measures, DLNR officials said.

The $67 million project is hoping to enroll 15,000 acres across Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kauai and Oahu. The USDA will contribute 80 percent ($53.6 million) of the funds, and the state will contribute 20 percent ($13.4 million) through payments to enrolled landowners and in-kind services. The state funds will come from the Forest Stewardship Special Fund, allocated during the 2006 legislative session, DLNR officials added.

The program will run for 20 years. Landowners will be asked to enroll in 15-year contracts, and there is a five-year enrollment period in which landowners can sign up.

They did not announce a sign-up date, but more information can be found at the DLNR Web site, www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dofaw/crep.

Farmers and ranchers will be able to apply for this program with the Farm Service Agency at their local County USDA Service Center offices.