WHIP is a voluntary program that provides financial assistance to private landowners to establish wildlife habitat. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with participants to develop a wildlife habitat management plan. This plan becomes the basis for entering into a 5 to 10 year agreement with landowners to implement the plan. Projects that focus on establishing habitat for threatened and endangered species or declining species receive a higher priority. Applications are accepted through a continuous signup process at the local NRCS office.
Three WHIP Special Projects were approved for up to three-year funding, beginning in 2010. The following projects have an annual budget of up to $100,000 annually:
Union County - Quail Focus Area
This project focuses on creating quail habitat in a 52 square mile area of southeast Union County - where several landowners have an interest in managing specifically for quail, and hopefully motivating others in the area to do the same. The creation of quail habitat, such as early successional grassland habitat for nesting and brood rearing, is a major focus. This includes seeding native prairie, spraying existing brome grass and fescue, strip disking, woody removal, and prescribed burning. Quail also require shrubs for winter and escape cover, thus edge feathering and shrub plantings will be used to create cover.
Driftless Area Prairie & Oak Savanna
The Driftless Area in northeast Iowa covers eight counties which drain into priority streams and rivers that empty into the Upper Mississippi River. Hundreds of state and federally threatened and endangered animal and plant species call the Driftless Area home. This area is very diverse, with rugged topography, forests prairies, savannas, grasslands, and wetlands. Northeast Iowa's remaining natural areas on private lands have the greatest potential for loss and have the least amount of protection. Practices that will help restore this area include managed grazing, prescribed burning, brush management, invasive species control, forest stand improvement, and fencing.
North Raccoon River Watershed Topeka Shiner WHIP Special Project
The North Raccoon River is a major tributary of the Raccoon River and lies within the Des Moines River Basin in South Central Iowa. Of the 225 river miles of designated critical habitat for the Topeka shiner, the North Raccoon River Watershed encompasses 186, with stream segments in Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Webster, Greene and Dallas Counties. This project focuses on tributaries in Sac, Calhoun and Carroll Counties. The Topeka shiner is a listed Federally Endangered Species. This Special Project will help restore and improve critical habitat for the Topeka shiner. Objectives include restoring habitat to help support prairie stream-evolved fishes, establishing habitat to support the natural reproduction of the Topeka shiner, and restoring native habitats in the North Raccoon River Watershed that is characteristic of Iowa's lowland forest and wet prairie, upland prairie, and oak savanna communities.