NRCS Announces 2nd Sign-Up for Gopher Tortoise
AUBURN, March 9, 2017 – USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist for Alabama Ben Malone announced that funding will be available for agricultural producers interested in restoring and protecting habitat for the gopher tortoise through the installation of eligible forestry practices. Conservation efforts for the gopher tortoise are part of Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Eligible landowners in the following 28 counties are encouraged to apply: Baldwin, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Mobile, Montgomery, Monroe, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox. The deadline to submit applications is April 7, 2017.
The gopher tortoise is a keystone species of longleaf pine forests in the Southeast. The tortoise, known for its deep burrows, is listed as threatened in the western part of its range under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Since 2012, NRCS has worked with land managers to make conservation improvements to more than 278,000 acres of pine forests, benefiting the gopher tortoise and many other species. In Alabama, 174,000 acres have seen conservation improvements benefiting the keystone species.
“The decisions of agricultural producers can have significant impacts on wildlife,” said Ben Malone, NRCS State Conservationist in Alabama. “By managing land with the gopher tortoise and other wildlife in mind, producers can benefit entire populations while also strengthening their agricultural operations.
Eligible landowners are encouraged to visit their local USDA Service Center to sign up by April 7, 2017.
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