The Georgia Forestry Commission has expanded eligibility to all counties in the state for cost-share funds available through the Stewardship Incentives Program (SIP) to assist landowners with Southern pine beetle problems.

“Last year, the forestry commission received SIP cost-share funds to target forest health issues within the state,” says Steve Chapman, statewide coordinator of the SIP. “At the time, it was decided that funds would be directed only to counties identified with epidemic pine beetle problems. Now, however, the remainder of the funding is available to landowners statewide who meet qualifying criteria. The county in which the land is located does not have to be identified as epidemic.”

Chapman estimates that there is $80,000 left in the SIP fund. Timber owners applying for the cost-share funds must have a pine beetle problem within the last two calendar years (2001 or 2002). Applicants also must have a written Forest Stewardship Plan or must enroll in the stewardship plan.

Cost-share funding may be used by landowners to finance tree planting, timber stand improvement, water quality practices and wildlife habitat enhancement. Applicants can receive no more than $10,000. Chapman says funds will be distributed as long as they last but warned that the grant is expected to expire in 2003.

Applications may be obtained by contacting a local Georgia Forestry Commission office or by visiting the GFC Website at www.gfc.state.ga.us. For further information, contact Steve Chapman at (478) 751-3493.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com