Innovative Partnership Helps Pennsylvania Landowners Protect Threatened and Endangered Species
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HARRISBURG, PA, March 9, 2012 � Pennsylvania farmers and forest landowners can now sign-up for assistance to protect and restore habitats for the federally-threatened Bog Turtle and endangered Golden-Winged Warbler (bird) through the Working Lands for Wildlife partnership.
This new partnership between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative to reconnect Americans to the outdoors and encourage community-based conservation and recreation.
"America's natural resources play a significant role in building a strong and vibrant economy," said Secretary Vilsack. "Agricultural lands with healthy and abundant wildlife habitat support strong incomes for our farmers and provide great opportunities for enhancing hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing."
Using the best available science, the partners will prioritize restoration actions on a large scale to most cost effectively focus assistance. In return for voluntarily making habitat improvements on their lands, the Federal government will provide landowners with regulatory certainty that they will not be asked to take additional conservation actions. In addition, USDA's NRCS and the Department of Interior's U.S. FWS will jointly prepare species recovery tools such as informal agreements, safe harbor agreements and habitat conservation plans to provide regulatory certainty to landowners. The goal is to have these tools in place for all priority species by the end of the year.
Applications within priority Bog Turtle and Golden-Winged Warbler habitat areas will receive highest consideration in Pennsylvania. Interested producers and landowners in targeted areas can enroll in the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) on a continuous basis at their local NRCS field office. NRCS funds from WHIP will share the cost of conservation practices with landowners in areas known to support one or more of the selected species. Examples of conservation practices that improve Bog Turtle and Golden-Winged Warbler habitat include wetland restoration, prescribed grazing, brush management, and fencing.
For 14 years, WHIP has worked to protect, restore or develop fish and wildlife habitat for many species, including those considered at-risk. Since 2003, about $310 million has been committed to 23,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners nationally to provide wildlife treatments on four million acres of private working lands.
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