RCPP Sierra Nevada Tree Mortality

The California Association of Resource Conservation Districts is partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to bring a new technical and financial assistance program to forest landowners in the Central Sierra dealing with bark beetle tree mortality. The tree mortality crisis has created an undue burden on landowners and communities in the Central Sierra. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program "Crisis to Opportunity: Sierra Nevada Tree Mortality" is a response to this crisis.

  • Local Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are working in partnership with NRCS field offices to provide technical assistance to forest landowners with beetle kill trees on their land.
  • Technical assistance supports the development of forest management and conservation plans at no cost to the landowner.
  • Eligible forest conservation plans will be submitted to the RCPP Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for ranking by NRCS.
  • Selected plans will have the option to enter into a contract with NRCS for conservation practice incentive payments. These payments average about 50% of the cost of each conservation practice.

Counties with RCPP eligible non-industrial private forest lands

Who is eligible for technical assistance services through the RCPP?

The RCPP covers the 10 county tree mortality high hazard zone. This includes non-industrial private forest land in Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties. Non-industrial private forest landowners in these 10 counties with at least one beetle-kill conifer on their property may be eligible for RCPP services.

Why do I need a Forest Management Plan or Conservation Plan?

Through the RCPP, RCD staff are able to provide forest management plans (FMPs) or conservation plans to non-industrial forest landowners. The management plan is a document that draws on RCD staff expertise and the management goals of the landowner. The plan outlines the landowner’s forest management goals, what practices need to be implemented to reach those goals, and where on the land the practices will be implemented. Practices can include brush management, tree removal, soil erosion control measures, and reforestation. Once the plan is written it will be submitted to the local NRCS office to be considered for a contract through EQIP.

What is EQIP and how do incentive payments work?

EQIP, or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, is the primary way that the NRCS provides financial support to landowners implementing improved management practices on their land. EQIP has pots of funding to address different natural resource challenges. The RCPP provides a pot of funding that specifically addresses dead tree removal and forest health and fuel load reduction practices. Incentive payments have a set rate for each practice, and are calculated on a per acre, per foot, or per tree basis depending on the practice type. Through EQIP, a contract is signed by NRCS and the landowner detailing which practices the landowner has agreed to perform and what the incentive payment from NRCS will be. Incentive payments are provided after the practice has been completed and certified by NRCS.

It is important to note that incentive payments are considered income for tax purposes

How is the RCPP Environmental Quality Incentives Program different from other EQIP fund pools?

The RCPP provides an EQIP fund pool that is tailored to address the needs of landowners dealing with tree mortality in the Central Sierra. There is no acreage minimum to gain access to the RCPP fund pool or receive technical assistance. Unlike other NRCS programs, the RCPP fund pool allows for work to be performed within 100 feet of homes. Hazard tree removal near structures can be very expensive, a new incentive payment is being developed to better reflect the high cost of tree removal in these instances.

Does the RCPP include work performed within the 100 foot defensible space around homes?

Yes. This program recognizes that the high cost of removing hazard trees and the overwhelming need to take action on private lands can prevent necessary management from occurring. Allowing work to be performed within the defensible space on non-industrial private forest land is a key piece of supporting the health and safety of the Central Sierra’s forested communities. It is crucial to note, the high cost of tree removal and treatment near structures.  While the EQIP payments cover a portion of the cost, the total removal cost per tree within the 100-foot zone may be more than $1000 per tree

To streamline work performed within the 100 foot zone, NRCS developed a mini-conservation plan that specifically addresses hazard tree removal around structures.

Resources for Landowners

RCPP Tree Mortality Flyer

NRCS EQIP Factsheet 2019

NRCS RCPP Program Description


Resources for RCDs

RCPP Summer 2019 Program Updates

NRCS Forest Tree Mortality Strategic Guidance 2019

NRCS Forest Management Plan Template

NRCS Practice 384 Hazard Tree Removal IR and FMP

RCPP Landowner Intake Form

If you are a landowner or land manager in the Sierra Nevada region and are interested in finding out how this project could help you deal with dead and dying trees on your property, please contact us today.