By Eric Hansen
USDA is expanding its Working Lands for Wildlife program, an NRCS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiative that has been instrumental in conserving at-risk wildlife habitat on working lands.
Through Working Lands for Wildlife, NRCS focuses financial and technical assistance on private lands that support seven target species: the greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken, gopher tortoise, New England cottontail, golden-winged warbler, Southwestern willow flycatcher, and bog turtle. FWS works with NRCS to prepare informal agreements, safe harbor agreements, and habitat conservation plans that provide regulatory certainty to landowners who participate in the program.
Since its inception in 2012, more than 130 landowners have worked through the program to restore or protect 6.7 million acres of much-needed habitat. These efforts have led to the rebound and recovery of many species, including the New England cottontail, which FWS declined to list under the Endangered Species Act in September 2015.
NRCS and FWS expanded Working Lands for Wildlife this month to fund eleven new projects:
- Northern Bobwhite in Grasslands, Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky;
- Northern Bobwhite in Pine Savannas, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama;
- Northeast Turtles, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Vermont;
- American Black Duck, Delaware, Maryland, Vermont and New Jersey;
- Yazoo Darter, Mississippi;
- Conasauga River Aquatic Species, Georgia and Tennessee;
- Colorado River Aquatic Species, Texas;
- Shorebirds of Louisiana Wetlands, Louisiana;
- Cutthroat Trout, Colorado;
- Sandhills Grasslands, Nebraska; and
- Kenai Peninsula Salmon, Alaska.