NRCS Announces Wildlife Conservation Efforts to Benefit the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
Ranking Deadline – May 30
PHOENIX, April 3, 2012— Landowners along Arizona’s riparian areas, will have an opportunity to apply for a new conservation funding source through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), announced recently by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The announcement of the Working Lands for Wildlife partnership creates a $33 million partnership nationwide with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches to restore and protect the habitats for wildlife, including seven at-risk species and other vulnerable game species.
One of the targeted at-risk species is the southwestern willow flycatcher, a small bird that resides along riparian areas throughout Arizona. Flooding, development and other practices have reduced native willows that the bird relies on for its habitat and food supply.
“The aim of the new program is to focus available conservation dollars and wildlife expertise on the recovery of these at-risk species,” said Keisha Tatem, Arizona NRCS State Conservationist.
“Improving habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher will also benefit many other riparian species, including approximately 40 species listed as threatened or endangered. The fly catcher is an insect eating bird that requires dense foliage and the presence of water or saturated soil to flourish. We would like to work with private landowners and Tribes across Arizona to help the southwestern will flycatcher thrive,” said Stu Tuttle, Arizona NRCS State Biologist.
In return for voluntarily making habitat improvements on their lands, the Federal government will provide landowners with regulatory certainty that they will not be asked to take additional conservation actions. USDA's NRCS and Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will jointly prepare species recovery tools such as informal agreements, safe harbor agreements and habitat conservation plans to provide regulatory certainty to landowners. The goal is to have these tools in place for all priority species by the end of the year.
Some of the core practices approved by NRCS for the flycatcher include stream habitat improvement and management, restoration and management of rare and declining habitats, wetland wildlife habitat management, and upland wildlife habitat management. Several supporting conservation practices, such as brush management, planting riparian buffers, fencing and prescribed grazing will be included in the mix of conservation practices approved.
Interested producers and landowners in targeted areas can contact their local NRCS field office to work with an NRCS expert to develop a free conservation plan, identifying conservation practices needed to conserve the southwestern willow flycatcher’s habitat.
Landowners can then apply for WHIP, on a continuous basis, through their local NRCS field office to implement the conservation practices supporting the southwestern willow flycatcher. The ranking deadline for this year is May 30. Applications within the priority habitat areas will receive highest consideration (map is available at www.az.nrcs.usda.gov).
For more information about this program and the southwestern willow flycatcher, please visit www.az.nrcs.usda.gov. NRCS has 24 field offices in Arizona. Find the one nearest you at www.az.nrcs.usda.gov/contact or call 620-280-8800 for more information.