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Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program


With the enactment of the Agricultural Act (February 7, 2014) funding provided for the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) in FY-2014 is no longer available for obligations. WHIP is not reauthorized.

NRCS will honor and continue to support fiscal year 2014 WHIP program contracts using the rules and policy that was in effect at the time of contract obligations.

Portions of the WHIP Statute were rolled into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Anyone still interested in applying for wildlife projects in programs should go to the EQIP web page.


Landowners, including non-agricultural and forestry landowners, who would like technical and financial assistance in improving fish passage on privately-owned land, are encouraged to apply for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).  The Fiscal Year 2014 application deadline is January 31, 2014.


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 2014

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 taken on a continuous basis.  The application deadline to be considered for funding in Fiscal Year 2014 is February 21, 2014.


Some of the following documents below require Adobe Acrobat Reader

of the targeted priority areas containing the New England cottontail (.pdf)

Working Lands for Wildlife National Website


General program information

WHIP Fact Sheet

Maine NRCS Fish and Wildlife Action Plan (.pdf)


National NRCS Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program Web Site


Program Contact:  Susan Arrants, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, 207-990-9564 or email