Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)



New England Cottontail rabbitThe Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to people who want to create, enhance or restore native fish and wildlife habitat or restore natural ecosystems on their land.  NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance for part of the cost of establishing and maintaining conservation practices that are necessary for enhancing and improving wildlife habitat and restoring natural ecosystems.

For FY 2013, NRCS continues an innovative Working Lands for Wildlife partnership to preserve working lands and conserve habitat for wildlife species including the New England cottontail rabbit.  NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached an historic agreement to extend wildlife conservation efforts on working agricultural lands that will provide long-term regulatory predictability for up to 30 years to RI farmers and forest landowners participating in the Working Lands for Wildlife initiative.  Participants voluntarily implement proven conservation practices designed to protect wildlife habitat such as the New England cottontail rabbit on private lands.

Applications are accepted on a continuous basis throughout the year although there are three application ranking period deadlines in FY 2013 as noted below:

December 21, 2012 (Period 1)

February 15, 2013 (Period 2)

April 19, 2013 (Period 3)

May 17, 2013 (Period 4)

To watch a YouTube video explaining the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) initiative, please select the following link in your Web browser:

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in partnership with the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service announced funding for the Working Lands for Wildlife partnership which allows farmers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches to restore and protect habitats for wildlife including at-risk species such as the New England cottontail rabbit.

Working Lands for Wildlife is a national effort with $33 million in funding nationwide from the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). The partnership will demonstrate that productive working rural lands are compatible with the needs of sensitive wildlife species.

Nationally, other at risk species include the bog turtle, golden-winged warbler, gopher tortoise, greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken, and Southwestern willow flycatcher

The New England cottontail rabbit was listed as a candidate species under the Federal Endangered Species Act due to an 86 percent decline in its historic range. The primary threat to the New England cottontail is the loss of habitat through succession. As forests mature, understory thins to such an extent that the habitat is no longer suitable for the New England cottontail. Fragmentation serves to further degrade habitat on a larger scale. Infestation of invasive plants and alterations of hydrology are additional common resource concerns affecting the New England cottontail.

Technical and financial assistance is provided under the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to develop and improve habitat within designated high-priority habitat areas. Specific practices for habitat improvement include brush management and weed control to manage invasive plants, reestablishment of native woody vegetation, and cutting trees and shrubs to encourage dense forest understory regeneration. According to Gary Casabona, NRCS State Biologist, “The habitat management practices will assist with conservation of the New England cottontail through creation of additional scrub/shrub habitat. The increase in shrub thicket and early successional habitat will greatly benefit an additional 59 species of wildlife in New England such as wild turkeys, woodcock, migratory song birds, and ruffed grouse.”

Interested producers and landowners in Rhode Island along with Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York can sign up on a continuous basis throughout the year In Rhode Island, interested producers and landowners should reviews the WHIP information below including the application materials and documents.  For additional information on WHIP, please contact Joseph Bachand, WHIP Program Manager, at 401-822-8816 or by E-mail at

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New England Cottontail Rabbit Fact Sheet (PDF, 361 KB)

Map of New England Cottontail Rabbit Focus Area, Rhode Island Specific Map (PDF, 361 KB)

Map of New England Cottontail Rabbit Focus Area, New England Map (PDF, 189 KB)



Links to information on this Web site:
WHIP Information
The following document requires Acrobat Reader.