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Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP)

Man and woman examining tree



Copperbelly Water Snake

Copperbelly Water Snake
(Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta

  • Listed Threatened in 1996
  • Size – 3 to 5 feet long
  • Color – solid dark (usually black) back with a bright orange-red belly
  • Ohio population– aprx. 100
  • Habitat – shallow scrub/ shrub wetlands, hibernate in adjacent upland woods
  • Threats – habitat loss from draining and filling wetlands, forest clearing, habitat fragmentation

 USFWS Photos

Indiana Bat

Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalist)

  • Listed  Endangered in 1967
  • Size – ¼ ounces (weight of 3 pennies
  • Wingspan – 9-11 inches
  • Color – dark brown to black
  • Ohio population – approximately 7000 in 2005
  • Habitat –Nov-March: caves and abandoned mines
    April-Oct: woods, roosts under loose tree bark
  • Threats – habitat fragmentation, human disturbance, habitat loss (commercializing caves, improperly gated abandoned mines, forest land conversion), disease (white-nose syndrome)

The Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) helps landowners restore, enhance and protect forestland resources on private lands through easements and financial assistance. Through HRFP, landowners promote the recovery of endangered or threatened species, improve plant and animal biodiversity and enhance carbon sequestration.


HFRP provides landowners with 10-year restoration agreements and 30-year or permanent easements for specific conservation actions. For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract. Some landowners may avoid regulatory restrictions under the Endangered Species Act by restoring or improving habitat on their land for a specified period of time.


HFRP applicants must provide proof of ownership, or an operator (tenant) must provide written concurrence from the landowner of tenancy for the period of the HFRP restoration agreement in order to be eligible.
Land enrolled in HFRP easements must be privately owned or owned by Indian tribes and restore, enhance or measurably increase the recovery of threatened or endangered species, improve biological diversity or increase carbon storage.

Local Issues 

In Ohio, the threatened copperbelly water snake and the endangered Indiana bat spend part of their lives in the forests and wetlands of several Williams and Defiance County townships. Both animals need specific types of habitat which they can’t always find.  They need your help to make sure they have the trees and shallow wetlands they need to survive.

Several conservation agencies and organizations work together to protect these threatened and endangered species, including NRCS.  The Healthy Forests Reserve Program, benefits these animals by helping people create, maintain, and protect critical habitat.  

Land eligible for the HFRP include existing woodlands or wetlands or land suitable for creating forests or shallow wetlands.  Habitat fragmentation poses a major threat to the survival of animals because they have to travel across roads or fields to find enough food or cover, exposing them to predators and harm.  Eventually, the animals leave the area permanently or die. To encourage the development of large areas of suitable habitat, land with adjacent habitat suitable for the Indiana bat and copperbelly water snake receives priority for funding.

How to Apply

Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply or visit


Barbara Baker
Assistant State Conservationist for Natural Resources