NRCS accepting applications for wildlife habitat incentives
By Ronnie Weston| May 30, 2013 at 8:30 PM CDT - Updated June 15 at 1:57 PM
LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Farmers and landowners statewide have until June 14 to submit applications to receive cost-share assistance to implement conservation activities through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program for the 2013 program year.
In addition to statewide funding, WHIP funding is also available through the USDA Strike Force Initiative in the following counties: Arkansas, Bradley, Chicot, Clark, Columbia, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Hempstead, Howard, Jackson, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lee, Mississippi, Monroe, Nevada, Newton, Ouachita, Phillips, Randolph, Searcy, Sevier, St. Francis and Woodruff.
Producers can sign up at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service field service center.
"WHIP is a valuable tool to facilitate environmental improvements for wildlife, encouraging producers to be good stewards of the land," said Michael Sullivan, state conservationist.
The program addresses wildlife habitat in riparian areas, wetlands, uplands, cave ecosystems and elk and quail habitat. Each area will have specific conservation practices eligible for cost-sharing that benefit certain wildlife species.
Applicants will be ranked according to how the wildlife habitat development plan will effect certain wildlife populations. The plans will be developed according to landowner objectives with assistance from an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologist and NRCS conservationist. The plans will be implemented during a long-term agreement that generally lasts from 5 to 10 years.
A wildlife habitat development plan outlines management practices as well as establishment practices such as planting and seeding. Plans include practices to manage plant succession in fields and forests and may prescribe management techniques such as burning, disking and forest thinning.
According to AGFC Private Lands Supervisor David Long, the incentives are a golden opportunity for landowners to improve their lands for wildlife through the financial assistance to implement wildlife practices. "Funding available now is better than in past years which will increase the number of landowners being approved for improving their lands for wildlife," Long explained.
Long said June 14 is rapidly approaching, so landowners need to go by their county NRCS office as soon as possible to get their application submitted. "Cost-share for practices averages appropriately 60 percent of the cost to install the practice. Landowners will receive professional wildlife recommendations from private lands biologists based on what their wildlife objectives are and the current condition of their habitat," he said.
Plans may also include forest management practices such as forest stand improvement by herbicide treatment or harvesting small groups of trees to create the proper density, composition and age of the stand for different wildlife species. On wetland areas, plans outline dates and rates of water drawdown to encourage different species of annual native plants for waterfowl and shorebirds. The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private land.