7 CFR § 625.4 - Program requirements.

§ 625.4 Program requirements.

(a) General. Under HFRP:

(1) NRCS will purchase conservation easements from, or enter into 30-year contracts or 10-year cost-share agreements with, eligible landowners who voluntarily cooperate in the restoration and protection of forestlands and associated lands.

(2) A landowner will participate in HFRP by agreeing to the implementation of an HFRP restoration plan, the effect of which is to restore, protect, enhance, maintain, and manage the habitat conditions necessary to increase the likelihood of recovery of listed species under the ESA, or measurably improve the well-being of species that are candidates for such listing, that is a candidate for listing under section 4 of ESA, State-listed species or species deemed of greatest conservation need by a State wildlife action plan, or species identified by the Chief for special consideration for funding.

(3) NRCS may provide cost-share assistance for the activities that promote the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management of forest ecosystem functions and values. Specific restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management activities may be undertaken by the landowner or other NRCS designee. P>(b) Landowner eligibility. To be eligible to enroll an easement in the HFRP, an individual or entity must:

(1) Be the landowner of eligible land for which enrollment is sought; and

(2) Agree to provide such information to NRCS, as the agency deems necessary or desirable, to assist in its determination of eligibility for program benefits and for other program implementation purposes.

(c) Eligible land.

(1) NRCS, in coordination with FWS or NMFS, will determine whether land is eligible for enrollment and whether once found eligible, the lands may be included in the program based on the likelihood of successful restoration, enhancement, and protection of forest ecosystem functions and values when considering the cost of acquiring the easement, 30-year contract, or 10-year cost share agreement, and the restoration, protection, enhancement, maintenance, and management costs.

(2) Land will be considered eligible for enrollment in HFRP only if NRCS determines that such private forest land or private land being restored to forest land will contribute to the maintenance, restoration, or enhancement of the habitat or measurably:

(i) Increase the likelihood of recovery for a selected species listed under section 4 of ESA; or

(ii) Improve the well-being of a selected species that is a candidate for listing under section 4 of ESA, or the selected species is a State-listed species, or deemed a species of greatest conservation need by a State wildlife action plan, or is a species identified by the Chief for special consideration for funding.

(3) NRCS may also enroll land adjacent to eligible land if the enrollment of such adjacent land would contribute significantly to the practical administration of the easement area, but not more than it determines is necessary for such contribution.

(4) To be enrolled in the program, eligible land must be configured in a size and with boundaries that allow for the efficient management of the area for easement purposes and otherwise promote and enhance program objectives.

(5) In the case of acreage owned by an Indian tribe, NRCS may enroll acreage into the HFRP which is privately owned by either the tribe or an individual.

(d) Ineligible land. The following land is not eligible for enrollment in the HFRP:

(1) Land owned by the United States, States, or units of local government;

(2) Land subject to an easement or deed restriction that already provides for the protection of fish and wildlife habitat or that would interfere with HFRP purposes, as determined by NRCS;

(3) Land that would not be eligible for HFRP under paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(5); and

(4) Land where the purposes of HFRP would be undermined due to onsite or offsite conditions, such as risk of hazardous substances, unacceptable encumbrances to title, permitted or existing rights of way, infrastructure development, or adjacent land uses.

[75 FR 6546, Feb. 10, 2010, as amended at 76 FR 19684, Apr. 8, 2011; 83 FR 23208, May 18, 2018; 84 FR 19702, May 6, 2019]