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WHIP Fact Sheet - November 2004

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) Fact Sheet
Farm Bill 2002


The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial assistance to help landowners create high quality wildlife habitats. WHIP was reauthorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm Bill).

Through WHIP, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance to restore upland, wetland, riparian, and aquatic habitat areas.

Illinois WHIP Goals

  • Teach landowners how to improve their land for wildlife
  • Increase native grassland habitat by 5% in traditional prairie areas of east central Illinois
  • Improve native habitat in Illinois’ Resource-Rich Areas
  • Help willing landowners install wildlife improvement practices


Since 1998, Illinois has received $2.2 million in WHIP funding. Landowners have entered into 530 agreements to restore more than 14,600 acres of wildlife habitat across the state. Efforts improve upland habitats, such as native prairie, as well as riparian and aquatic areas, or the unique habitats that exist where land and water meet.

Species Benefiting from WHIP

  • Grasshopper sparrow
  • Bobwhite quail
  • Illinois mud turtle
  • Short-eared owl
  • Blue-winged teal
  • Eastern meadowlark
  • Indiana bat
  • Karner-blue butterfly
  • Red-shouldered hawk


How to Apply

Applications for WHIP are accepted through a continuous sign-up process. You may apply at any time through your local USDA Service Center or conservation district office. Applications also may be obtained through USDA’s e-gov Internet site at: Click on “Register” to open a USDA account. You then have access to the WHIP application (CCC-1200).


NRCS in Illinois works with the State Technical Committee to identify goals, priorities, eligibility requirements and ranking criteria. 

Eligible lands include:

  • Privately owned land not currently enrolled in other federal conservation programs (land not eligible for other state or federal programs may be eligible);
  • State and local government land on a limited basis; and
  • Tribal land.

The Adjusted Gross Income provision of the 2002 Farm Bill impacts eligibility. Individuals or entities with an average adjusted gross income exceeding $2.5 million for the three tax years immediately preceding the year the contract is approved are not eligible. However, an exemption is provided in cases where 75% of the adjusted gross income is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry operations.

Technical Assistance

Once the land is determined eligible, an NRCS technical specialist or Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) biologist will work with you one-on-one to customize a wildlife habitat development plan that meets your goals and the resource potential of the site. Your plan will detail activities and practices to:

  • Improve habitat areas for declining/at-risk wildlife species;
  • Promote management practices that benefit fish and wildlife not supported by other local, state or federal programs; and
  • Protect sensitive, rare or threatened wildlife and fishery habitats.

Financial Assistance

Your wildlife habitat development plan is the basis of your cost-share agreement with NRCS. Depending upon the practices to be installed, you will receive cost-share under a 5- to 10-year agreement. Your payments are then used to establish practices outlined in the wildlife habitat development plan.

Payments will not exceed 75% of predetermined costs of practice implementation. WHIP does not provide rental income or easement purchase payments.

Short-term agreements may be used to install practices that meet wildlife emergencies, as approved by the NRCS State Conservationist. In addition, NRCS may provide greater cost-share to landowners who enter into agreements of 15 years or more for practices on Essential Plant and Animal Habitat, or areas that support State or Federally listed threatened or endangered plants and animals. Up to 15% of WHIP funds may be used to improve Essential Plant and Animal Habitat.

Project Maintenance

While habitat is “wild” in many ways, it still needs management and maintenance. After completion of habitat development activities outlined in your plan, NRCS will continue to provide technical assistance to help you maintain the habitat long-term. NRCS may help you monitor practices, review management guidelines, or provide biological and engineering advice on how to achieve optimum results for targeted species over time.

WHIP Management Practices
Habitat Practices
Cropland � Field Borders
� Hedgerow Planting
Farmstead Shelterbelts
� Establishment
� Renovation
Forestland � Fencing (to restrict livestock)
� Tree/Shrub Plantings
� Timber Stand Improvement
� Brush Piles & Nesting Structures
(trees, shrubs & grasses
along water corridors)
� In-stream Structures
� Tree/Shrub Plantings
� Native Grass Establishment
� Stream Habitat Restoration
Prairie � Prairie Restoration
� Prescribed Burning
� Fencing (to restrict livestock)
Wetland � Shallow Water Management
� Restoration

Use of Enrolled Land

During the contract period, landowners must maintain practices as described in the plan. The land is yours to use as you choose, but activities must not damage or degrade the habitat project. There are no land use restrictions after the contract period expires.

Additional Information

If you need more information about WHIP, contact the NRCS District Conservationist at your local USDA Service Center (listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture), or contact your local conservation district. Information also is available on the World Wide Web at:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides leadership in a partnership effort to help people conserve, maintain, and improve our natural resources and environment.

Visit USDA on the Web at:

November 2004

Helping People Help the Land.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Download Printable Fact Sheet

A printable version of this fact sheet is available in Adobe Acrobat Format 6.0.

WHIP Fact Sheet November 2004
WHIP_04.pdf (PDF, 192 kb)