The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to landowners for developing, improving or managing wildlife habitat or for restoring natural ecosystems on eligible land.
Landowners agree to prepare and implement a wildlife habitat conservation plan. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to implement the wildlife habitat restoration practices.
To participate in WHIP, individuals must own or have control of the land under consideration. Eligible lands include privately-owned land; federal, state and local government land on a limited basis; and tribal land.
Land already enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program or the Wetland Reserve Program is not eligible to enroll in WHIP. Land enrolled in the Emergency Watershed Protection Program that is subject to floodplain easement is not eligible for WHIP. Land enrolled in the Grassland Reserve Program must meet certain eligibility criteria to be eligible for enrollment in WHIP.
For eligible land, NRCS places primary emphasis on enhancing habitat for fish and wildlife species experiencing declines or those with significantly reduced populations. Other important considerations are those practices beneficial to fish and wildlife that may not otherwise be funded through other conservation programs, and wildlife and fishery habitat enhancement priorities identified by local and State partners and Indian tribes. In Maine, NRCS priority habitats and species are delineated in the Maine NRCS Fish and Wildlife Action Plan.
Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative 2013
NRCS in partnership with the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service have announced funding for a new Working Lands for Wildlife partnership, which allows farmers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches to restore and protect habitat for at-risk wildlife species such as the New England cottontail rabbit.
Working Lands for Wildlife is a national effort with $33 million in funding 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.
The agencies have strategically identified seven at-risk species nationwide that would benefit from conservation investments made by landowners on private lands. New England cottontail habitat is targeted in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. The initiative is a voluntary, incentive-based effort that has three primary objectives: (1) Restore populations of the New England cottontail; (2) provide farmers, landowners and forest managers with regulatory certainty; and (3) strengthen rural economies through productive working lands.
The New England cottontail is listed as a priority species, and it is listed as an “endangered” species by state law in Maine. It is 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 loss of habitat through ecological succession, or the gradual process by which ecosystems change and develop over time. As forests mature, understory thins to such an extent that the habitat is no longer suitable for New England cottontail.
New England cottontail often live in landscapes suitable for agriculture and forestry, and averting the need for formal federal listing of the species will help landowners by maintaining management flexibility. Working Lands for Wildlife will assist private landowners to create and enhance shrub thicket and early successional forest, supporting New England cottontail recovery.
Applications are accepted anytime, but the application deadline for current funds is December 21, 2012 to be considered for 2013 funding.
Some of the following documents below require Adobe Acrobat Reader
Map of the targeted priority areas containing the New England cottontail (.pdf)
2013 Application Ranking Summary (.pdf)
2013 Payment Schedule (.pdf)
Working Lands for Wildlife National Website