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NRCS Seeks Landowners to Help Conserve Endangered Wildlife Habitat in Northwestern Pennsylvania

Updated 07/11/2012

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NEWS RELEASE

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Molly McDonough
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Massasauga Rattlesnake
HARRISBURG, PA, June 29, 2012 — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is looking for landowners in selected parts of northwestern Pennsylvania who are interested in creating and/or maintaining young forest habitat, wetlands, wet meadows or scrub shrub areas in order to conserve desperately needed Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake habitat.

The Eastern Massasauga is critically endangered in Pennsylvania and is now limited to only four isolated populations in the north-western portion of the Commonwealth. Although Massasaugas are venomous, they rarely strike unless provoked.

NRCS, with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, recently began a new Massasauga initiative through the NRCS-administered Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) that aims to protect and restore habitat for these rattlesnakes.

WRP provides landowners with financial and technical assistance to help protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property, which can improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat, and reduce flooding. The program offers three options to eligible landowners: permanent easements that cover 100 percent of restoration costs, 30-year easements that cover 75 percent of restoration costs, and a restoration-only option that does not involve an easement and covers 75 percent of restoration costs.

The Eastern Massasauga is a species that requires both wetlands and non-forested upland habitats, such as meadows and reverted agricultural fields within close proximity. For much of their active season, they prefer habitats such as abandoned fields, wet meadows, and grasslands. During the winter, they hibernate in wetlands within the groundwater and /or surface water flows.

Other wildlife species also depend on these same habitats, and will also be helped by the Massasauga initiative. The American woodcock and the golden–winged warbler are just a couple of bird species that share similar habitat needs with the Massasauga. Woodcock need diverse habitats to survive, including small clearings for courtship, dense shrubland or young forest thickets for earthworm foraging, early successional forests for nesting and brooding, and clearings for summer roosting

The golden-winged warbler is a migratory songbird and is one of the most critically threatened, non-federally listed vertebrates in eastern North America, primarily due to the loss and fragmentation of young forest habitats. NRCS also offers assistance through a newly-formed Working Lands for Wildlife initiative to help landowners restore populations of golden-winged warblers.

Conservation efforts can have tremendous impacts on restoring priority wildlife habitat and populations on private lands. If you are interested in protecting, creating, restoring or enhancing wildlife habitat, we want to hear from you. Please contact your local USDA NRCS Service Center to request more information on our conservation programs, or visit us at www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov.


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