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Frequently asked questions

Landowner Incentive Program

How do I apply?

For new applicants, there are two steps in the application process: a pre-proposal and a full proposal. A pre-proposal includes basic information about your project idea and location and must be submitted to be considered for funding. If your pre-proposal is approved, you will be invited to submit a full proposal which includes budget information, project objectives and evaluation benchmarks.

Applications are accepted during our open enrollment periods, which generally occur during the spring or fall – depending on our funding. Please watch the website for information or contact us to be included on our email list.

What land is eligible for LIP funding?

Any land located within the Driftless Area that is not publicly owned is eligible, including traditional private parcels, land trust holdings, NGO easement properties or facilitated projects and community groups. Projects should promote restoration or enhancement of rare, fire-dependent natural community types including prairie, oak savanna, barrens and oak woodland – that are privately owned – for the benefit of at-risk species. Eligible projects under the LIP may include, but are not limited to, conducting prescribed burns, planting native vegetation and removing invasive and woody species.

What is an at-risk species?

Wisconsin’s at-risk species are those that are considered rare in the state. These include species listed as:

  • endangered or threatened at the state or federal level;
  • state special concern species; or
  • Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).

LIP projects should focus on providing a benefit to all of the state's at-risk species but, in particular, SGCN.

How can I find out what at-risk species may be in my area?

You can use the Natural Heritage Inventory township tool to find out what at-risk species may be found near your property. And depending on a species habitat needs and what you have available, the resulting list of species will likely be larger than what you might actually find on your property.

What are the priority areas?

Our primary priority area is the Driftless Area, which refers to the southwestern portion of the state that escaped glaciation during the last Ice Age. The region is characterized by highly dissected uplands with deeply cut valleys and contains some of the highest quality remnants of oak savanna, prairies, forests and streams remaining in the upper Midwest states. This region provides habitat for plant and animal species that are either unique to this area or at the limits of their ranges.

How are projects chosen?

Projects are chosen using specific ranking criteria to help judge the project's overall benefit to species-at-risk. Criteria include, but are not limited to: benefit to at-risk species, level of site protection, landscape setting, probability of success, etc.

LIP projects should focus on providing benefits to all of the state's at-risk species but, in particular, Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).

What is a cost-share program?

A cost-share program is a program in which one entity (in this case the landowner or the DNR) does not incur the total cost of a project. The LIP is a 75-25 cost-share program, which means that the DNR will reimburse the landowner up to 75% of the cost for the on-the-ground practices that are involved in the management of the project. The landowner is required to contribute the remaining matching percentage.

What is match?

Match refers to the percentage of the project that the landowner is required to contribute in order to "earn" the state share. Match can be a financial (cash) contribution – like paying for part of the supplies or labor or can be an "in-kind" contribution, where the landowner may choose to take on some of the labor or contribute their own equipment. Other money contributed to the work may be used as match, so long as it is NOT derived from federal funds. The landowner can offer to match more than 25%, which will rank the application higher.

Donated labor, supplies or equipment as part of the landowner match are subject to the following provisions:

  1. All sources of the landowner match must be indicated in the grant application, although revisions are possible within the grant period.
  2. The hourly value of general donated labor is $15 per hour. The rate for skilled labor (e.g. chainsaw work) is $18 per hour.
  3. The value of equipment used for match shall conform to standard rental rates.
  4. The value of donated materials shall conform to standard LIP or market rates.
What does the LIP pay for?

The LIP will reimburse for costs that are essential to meet the objectives defined in the grant agreement and are needed to achieve the desired result. Common examples of LIP reimbursements include contractor invoices, supplies, hired labor and rental equipment. All costs must be supported by source documentation (e.g. invoices, receipts) or other records as necessary to substantiate the cost. Only costs incurred during the active grant are eligible for reimbursement. The LIP cannot reimburse for costs incurred before the grant agreement was signed or after the funded grant period has expired.

Examples of eligible (but not limited to) enhancements and/or practices include mowing, brush control, clearing of trees, control of invasive plants (mechanical and chemical), fencing for habitat protection, prescribed burning, seeding, woodland improvements (cutting or girdling of low habitat value trees), planting of native plant species and other aspects of natural community restoration benefiting at-risk-species. Please note that the LIP will not pay for building ponds or for planting yards and gardens.

Do I have to allow public access to receive funding?

Public access is not required.

What is the minimum acreage size of a project?

In general, we encourage projects that will allow the landowner to see successful results during their one-year projects. Additionally, more emphasis is placed on landscape context than on the size of the site, therefore there is no minimum or maximum limit to the project size. For example, a 3-acre bluff prairie located in close proximity to several other bluff prairie remnants may be a competitive LIP project, whereas a 3-acre property surrounded by corn or mowed yards may not.

What are the amounts one can apply for?

While the overall LIP budget is fairly small, the LIP has the authority to fund projects up to $25,000. However since our projects tend to run for a single year, most fall somewhere between $3,000-$8,000. In addition, a project too large in scope could present future management challenges (e.g. a burst of new invasives) that could overwhelm a landowner.

Where do I get help for developing a management plan?

It is not required to hire a professional to develop a management plan for your property. Some management plans can be very simple. The Landowner Incentive Program can assist you in developing a management plan and objectives for your property, as will some land trusts, NGOs, consulting firms and contractors. Be aware that some of these sources may charge for this service. You may contact LIP staff throughout the process for questions on techniques or where to find information for your plan. You do not need to have a completed management plan prior to applying. However, if your project is selected for funding, the LIP will work with you to develop a management plan before the project begins.

Are lands in MFL, CRP, EQIP and other programs eligible?

Lands enrolled in CRP are not eligible for LIP funding. In addition, the LIP cannot pay for practices already covered by an agreement with another program. However, the LIP can often build upon projects already started through other funding sources such as EQIP, MFL and the Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners Program. In many cases, the LIP can partner with these programs depending on the nature of the work involved. It is critical, however, that you first check with the program's administrator or local forester or biologist to be certain that the management practices you are proposing for LIP funds are compatible with the contract or agreement you may have with these other programs.

Are research and monitoring projects eligible?

LIP funds cannot be used for research or monitoring. Monitoring can be included as a match activity if it is necessary and reasonable to accomplish the project objectives and within the grant agreement period. The LIP is an implementation grant for active habitat management so monitoring should be a complementary component of the total proposal.

What are the landowner's obligations to receive funding?

If the proposal is approved for funding, the landowner must sign an agreement that is recorded with the county register of deeds. Project work must be completed within the funded grant period and the landowner agrees to keep the LIP project area in the same land use for 10 years. The landowner is not required to expend funds or labor beyond what is outlined in the grant agreement.

At the time you receive your grant agreement, you will also receive information on the financial administration of your project, what to do if your project requires changes and how to request reimbursement of project expenditures. You should maintain good records and documentation (receipts, work history, etc). Your financial records must be kept and made available if requested for inspection for up to three years after receiving the final grant payment.

All LIP landowners and/or cost-share recipients are required to comply with all relevant federal and state laws and regulations in executing their projects. Landowners and/or cost-share recipients are ultimately responsible for the final successful completion of the LIP project and a final report must be submitted before final payment can be made.

What is in the LIP agreement? What are the key components? What will I be signing?

The LIP cost-share agreement is a legal agreement between the DNR and the landowner. The grant agreement defines the scope and schedule of services for the funded period, project budget and project objectives that have been identified and agreed upon prior to signing. It is a legally binding agreement that the landowner signs showing their commitment to keeping the LIP project site intact for a minimum of 10 years. The agreement is kept as an index filed with the County Register of Deeds.

Can overhead or indirect charges be included as a cost to be reimbursed? What about overhead or indirectly donated as in-kind?

No. The LIP cannot allow overhead to be reimbursed as a cost or used as an in-kind match. Staff time may be considered eligible if it is tracked with regards to hours spent directly working on the grant objectives.

How are LIP funds distributed?

Funds are distributed on a reimbursement basis and in accordance with the agreed-to cost-share percentage. The submitted match will be used to calculate the eligible reimbursement payment. All project expenditures must be made in accordance with the funded grant period dates specified in the grant agreement. Successful applicants will be provided with written guidance and on how to keep financial records to be eligible for reimbursement and may work with the program coordinator if additional assistance is needed.

Note: If the application is submitted on behalf of a landowner, funds will be awarded to the landowner unless the applicant holds a legal interest in the property such as an easement, signed agreement transferring management authority or other binding, documented agreement.