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Plan Now for Spring Habitat Projects

Plan Now for Spring Habitat Projects

by Matt Smith, Biologist
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Hays, Kansas

The weather is turning colder and as we begin preparations for the long winter ahead, projects involving springtime improvements for wildlife habitat are probably not at the forefront of your thoughts. While it is true that the majority of on-the-ground habitat work is completed in the spring months, fall and winter provide an opportune time to develop a habitat management plan for your property.

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) wildlife biologists are available to work with landowners, providing technical assistance on improving wildlife habitat and guidance regarding both federal and state habitat programs as a public service. These programs are designed to offer financial assistance for implementing habitat improvement practices on range or pastureland, cropland, and properties enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Sign up dates, cost-share rates, and funding decision timelines vary by program. For example, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) has a continuous sign up, but normally has a cutoff period early in the spring to allocate funding and still allow time for spring plantings. The currently scheduled application ranking cutoff date of USDA’s WHIP projects is January 15, 2010. Your local wildlife biologist will be able to guide you through the application and planning process for all programs that may be applicable.

State private lands habitat improvement programs allow KDWP biologists and private landowners to work together in the development of habitat management plans. Many plans include financial assistance on prescribed burning, light disking, food plot establishment, forb/legume interseeding, and brush removal. Other plans have been developed to provide financial assistance for the conversion of farmland to native grass, converting grazing land from cool-season grass to warm-season grass, hedgerow renovation, wetland development, and deferred grazing on native rangeland. There are also several practices designed to assist landowners with required management activities on land enrolled into CRP. Dependent upon local availability, some locations may loan or rent native grass drills, tree planting machines, weed barrier fabric machines, root plows, drip torches, and portable tanks and sprayers for controlled burns to cooperating landowners.

Whether you intend to apply for financial assistance or would simply like some technical assistance in developing a wildlife-friendly management plan for your property, planning ahead allows for timely implementation of practices once spring arrives. Contact KDWP now and get a head start for next spring. Interested landowners can call 620-672-0760 for further information and the name of a KDWP biologist within their area.

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