How does one know if they are eligible for a government program?

Do you remember the scene in Zootopia when Officer Judy Hopps (a.k.a. The Bunny) and Nick Wilde (a.k.a. Fox) go into the DMV and all of the employees are sloths? If you have never watched the flick (you really should), it implies that sloths are slow and the government is slower.

More times than not, we leave government offices more confused than when we arrived. The other issue is that not all agencies and local offices are created equal. Staffing issues and local government funding contribute to some of the challenges. One county office may be fully staffed and ready to serve you while living 1 mile down the road might result in the sound of crickets when you call the office.

The offices I am referring to deal with government programs that relate to land, land management, agriculture, and conservation.

Why are these offices and programs important?

These programs help support overall wildlife conservation and clean water. In 20 years, we will be talking more about water conservation than ever before. We take for granted when we go to the faucet, turn the water on, and clean, drinkable water comes out into our glass. Often, we use government and conservation programs to help fund land improvement projects, including, but not limited to, tree planting, wetland restoration, timber stand improvement, and several others.

Not only do these programs support wildlife conservation and clean water, but they also give us that reprieve from the daily grind of stressful jobs and overscheduled lives to unwind in nature. These programs can help you relax and take a few deep fresh breaths. After all, it’s good for you!

In states like Minnesota and Missouri, there is a dedicated funding source for clean water and conservation. In other areas of the Upper Midwest and around the rest of the country, there is funding available through federal, state, and local agencies along with nonprofit organizations. Whether you are a farmer, hunter, or recreational landowner, there are programs available for you to improve your land.

How do you start? How do you know what to ask for?

First of all, I would highly recommend having a game plan before you arrive. A comprehensive conservation plan is important so you know what to ask for. At Kanati Land Management, we work with landowners to develop these comprehensive plans and account for hunting, farming, income, recreation, and several other activities. The bread-and-butter/meat-and-potatoes approach to conservation planning can give landowners a road map to follow. You need to walk the fields, traverse the forest, and wade in the wetlands to know exactly what you need.

Build relationships with conservation professionals who can help as your property needs change.

Planning can also be done with Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff.

There are several ways to figure out what government programs are available to you:

  1. Hire a conservation professional like Kanati Land Management
    Private companies can usually reduce the learning curve and speed up the process. Let Kanati be the liaison between the government and you, the landowner. Kanati takes into account your goals (not the goals of the current government agency), income opportunities, recreational activities, and several other factors. Kanati can bridge the gap between programs and agencies to find the best scenario for your property.
  2. Call your local SWCD or NRCS
    These agencies can provide service to you on the programs available in your area. As mentioned, staffing may not be equal in all counties or regions. Many of these offices have staff that are trained in areas like soils, conservation, engineering, and soil health. Some local SWCD or NRCS offices may not know about all of the options that landowners have.
  3. DIY research
    While a less popular approach, DIY can be satisfying. If you have time and energy, you can start by researching the programs and government agencies in your area. For example, what agency do you even need to talk to? In Minnesota, if you want trees, you may end up talking to the MN Department of Natural Resources. If you want to create a wetland, you may end up talking to the US FIsh and Wildlife Service or the NRCS. Since you have time, it will not bother you to do this research or you may learn a thing or two from these conversations and maybe even make a new friend along the way.

Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? I do. I was born and raised in a generation that read these books. The books gave you options on how the story ends. Let Kanati help choose your adventure. Turn the page and see what happens next.

-Nate Hylla has over 20 years of conservation and land management experience that includes land surveying, engineering, real estate, and conservation including serving as a lobbyist for conservation programs and public speaker on land use decisions. He is also a licensed Real Estate Agent with Central MN Realty, Hunting Guide, and the CEO of Kanati Land Management in Central Minnesota.