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News Release

Working Lands for Wildlife Announced in Alabama

 Auburn, Ala., December 6, 2012

 

Gopher Tortoise Focal Area Map

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett today announced a partnership opportunity for landowners to voluntarily restore and protect habitat for the gopher tortoise. This program targets at-risk wildlife species across the country. 

The gopher tortoise is the species of concern for parts of six states.  It is a ground burrowing turtle found in southern Alabama whose habitat is sandy, well-drained soils. Management practices that benefit the gopher tortoise also benefit quail, turkey, deer, and many other wildlife species. Gopher tortoise habitat management, in most situations, is compatible with and even enhances forest production.

“Landowners can receive financial assistance for a number of habitat management practices such as prescribed burning,” said Puckett.  Landowners with gopher tortoises on their property will rank highest for funding allocation.   

Financial assistance is available for practices such as:

  • Longleaf pine planting at any spacing between 10 x 12 feet (363 trees per acre) and 8 x 12 feet (454 trees per acre)
  • Pre-commercial thinning to below 500 trees per acre
  • Native warm season grass and forbs planting
  • Mid-rotation release of pine timber by removing hardwood brush
  • Release of young longleaf pine trees by removing hardwood competition
  • Other supporting practices such as firebreaks, site preparation for longleaf planting, and invasive species control may also be eligible

Funding for this initiative is provided through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) administered by NRCS.  Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis; however applications for 2013 funding must be received by the following batching date:  January 25, 2013.

Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Individuals are not eligible for WHIP until they have completed the Farm Bill eligibility requirements.  Contact your local NRCS or Farm Service Agency Office to begin this process.   NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or on-line at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.