Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative
The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service(NRCS) in Mississippi is currently taking applications for technical and financial assistance on a new innovative partnership approach to restore and protect the habitat for targeted threatened and endangered species, while also helping other vulnerable and game species. Mississippi landowners can sign-up for assistance to help manage and restore habitat for the gopher tortoise. Applications are accepted year-round, but eligible applications received by the application cutoff date of January 18, 2013. Applications within the priority habitat areas will receive highest consideration.
Under this strategy, Federal, State and local wildlife experts jointly identify at-risk species that would benefit from targeted habitat restoration investments on private lands. Using the best available science, the partners will prioritize restoration actions on a large regional scale to focus assistance where it is needed most. In return for voluntarily making habitat improvements on their lands, the Federal government will provide landowners with assurance that they will not be asked to take additional regulatory conservation actions.
In Mississippi, the targeted species, gopher tortoise, is a threatened wildlife species and both the tortoise and its burrow are protected by state law. habitat destruction is a significant threat. Gopher tortoises are long-lived reptiles that occupy upland habitat throughout southern coastal including sandhills, pine flatwoods, scrub, scrubby flatwoods, dry prairies, pine-mixed hardwoods, and coastal dunes which have historically been maintained by periodic wild fires.
The tortoises have adapted to frequent fire occurrences by digging burrows deep into the sandy soil. When fire is suppressed, small trees, shrubs, and brambles begin to grow making it difficult for the gopher tortoise to move around and eventually shade out the low growing plants that gopher tortoises eat.
Please contact your local USDA-NRCS Service Center or
Greg Brinson, Assistant State Conservationist (Programs)
Phone #: 601-965-4139 ext 2111