Skip Navigation

News Release

Working Lands for Wildlife - Three Parishes in Louisiana Included in Focal Area for Gopher Tortoise Habitat Restoration

Conservation Priority Report Louisiana

NRCS LAUSDACivil RightsCareersOffice LocatorContact Us
Helping People Help the Land

Working Lands for Wildlife
Three Parishes in Louisiana Included in Focal Area for Gopher Tortoise Habitat Restoration

This week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a new $33 million partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches to restore and protect the habitats for wildlife, including seven at-risk species and other vulnerable game species.

Under this strategy�called Working Lands for Wildlife�Federal, state, and local wildlife experts are jointly identifying at-risk species that would benefit from targeted habitat restoration investments on private lands.  Using the best available science, the partners will prioritize restoration actions on a large regional 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.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 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.

Selected At-Risk Species
The seven species initially selected for the Working Lands for Wildlife project  are (click each species name for information on the species and focal area map):  
Greater sage-grouse
New England cottontail
Bog turtle
Golden-winged warbler
Gopher tortoise
Lesser prairie-chicken
Southwestern willow flycatcher

In Louisiana, three parishes have been targeted as high-priority focal areas for the gopher tortoiseTangipahoa, Washington, and St. Tammany.

NRCS funds from the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) will share the cost of conservation practices with landowners in areas known to support the selected species.  Interested producers and landowners in targeted areas can enroll in WHIP on a continuous basis at their local NRCS field office.

For more information on the Working Lands for Wildlife project, contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office or Soil and Water Conservation District.






Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

Historically, more than 90 million acres of what is now the southeastern United States were covered by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) savanna; today, only 3.4 million acres remain and most are fragmented and in poor condition. Scattered from Virginia in the north to the Florida peninsula in the south and Texas in the west, longleaf pine forests are some of the world's most biologically diverse ecosystems, and provide critical habitat for 29 threatened and endangered species, including the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus).

The gopher tortoise is considered a keystone species, and an indicator of longleaf pine ecosystem health. Gopher tortoise requires deep, well drained soils and an open understory that provides open sunny sites for nesting. Its burrows provide vital habitat and shelter for many endangered species. In addition, gopher tortoise serves as vector for seed dispersal, helping to maintain biological diversity. The effects of habitat destruction, degradation, and human predation have greatly reduced the gopher tortoise population to the point where gopher tortoise is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act throughout the western part of its range.


Commitment to Equality
USDA believes every farmer and rancher should be treated equally and fairly, and we are committed to resolving all cases involving allegations of past discrimination by individuals.

Referral Guide for USDA Settlements and Claims Adjudication Process


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Women and Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers Claims Adjudication Process
If you believe that USDA improperly denied farm loan benefits to you for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000 because you are a female or because you are Hispanic, you may be eligible to apply for compensation.  To request a claims package by telephone, call 1-888-508-4429.  To request a claims package online, please visit

Native American Farmer and Rancher Class Action Settlement (Keepseagle v. Vilsack)
If you are a Native American who was denied a farm loan or loan servicing by the USDA between January 1, 1981, and November 24, 1999, you may be eligible for benefits from a Class Action Settlement.  To request a claims package by telephone, call:  1-888-233-5506.  To request a claims package online, or for more information, please visit:

African American Farmer and Rancher Class Action Settlement (Pigford II)
If you are an African American farmer (a) who submitted a request to file a late claim on or between October 13, 1999, and June 18, 2008, under the 1999 USDA settlement in the earlier class action known as Pigford v. Glickman ("Pigford") and (b) who did not receive a merits determination on your discrimination claim, you may be eligible for benefits from a Class Action Settlement.  To hear information by telephone, call 1-866-950-5547 or 1-866-472-7826.  To find information online, please visit:

USDA NRCS - Access . Opportunity . Equity . Partnerships

To find out more about this conservation opportunity and more, contact your local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service:  Office Locator