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Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program

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Bog TurtleGolden-Winged Warbler

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on private agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. Through WHIP, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. Most WHIP contracts are completed within 1 to 3 years. Longer term agreements (15 years) can be developed to improve essential habitat for targeted species.

WHIP National Priorities

Promote the restoration of declining or important native fish and wildlife habitats.

  • Protect, restore, develop or enhance fish and wildlife habitat to benefit of at-risk species (candidate species, and State and Federally listed threatened and endangered species).
  • Reduce the impacts of invasive species on fish and wildlife habitats.
  • Protect, restore, develop or enhance declining or important aquatic wildlife species’ habitats.

Working Lands for Wildlife

WHIP funds are being targeted to the Working Lands For Wildlife partnership between NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Nationwide, seven species in priority habitat areas are being targeted, whose decline can be reversed and will benefit other species with similar habitat needs. Two of the species, the Bog Turtle and Golden-Winged Warbler, are found in Pennsylvania. Landowners in areas known to support these two species can apply for WHIP financial assistance to establish or improve habitat for the Bog Turtle or Golden-Winged Warbler.

WHIP Pennsylvania Priorities

  • Improvement of wetland habitat for Bog Turtle
  • Establishment of young forest early successional habitat for Golden-Winged Warbler 

WHIP Program Eligibility

  • Applicants can be a person, legal entity or joint operation that has an interest in an agricultural operation, (including non-industrial private forestland) as an owner or renter or otherwise having control of the land for the contract period.
  • Applicants must be in compliance with USDA highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions, and not exceed maximum Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limits. They must also be in compliance with their terms of all other USDA-administered conservation program contracts they are already participating in. Due to the lack of a new Farm Bill, new Fiscal Year 2014 participants are not currently required to comply with Adjusted Gross Income provisions (the three-year AGI cannot exceed $1 million, with some exceptions if at least two-thirds of the income is from agriculture productions).  This is subject to change; participants will be notified if AGI compliance is required as a condition for receiving Fiscal Year 2014 funding.
  • Eligible land for WHIP includes Agricultural Lands such as cropland, grassland, pasture, non-industrial private forest land and other land suitable for fish and wildlife habitat development, on which agricultural and forest-related products or livestock are produced or have the potential to be produced. Agricultural lands may include cropped woodland, marshes, incidental areas included in the agricultural operation, and other types of land used for production of livestock.
  • Non-Industrial Private Forestland is rural land with existing tree cover or is suitable for growing trees; and is owned by any non-industrial private individual, group association, corporation, Indian tribe, or other private legal entity that has definitive decision-making authority over the land. 

WHIP Application Information

Applications are accepted on a continuous basis throughout the year with periodic pooling dates to evaluate, rank, prioritize and select applicants.  See Program Application Dates and Deadlines.

The Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200) is used to apply.

Other documents that may need to be filed are listed in Part 1 of the contract Appendix (Appendix to Form NRCS-CPA-1200 Conservation Program Contract).  These documents, if not already filed, include verification of compliance with Highly Erodible Land/Wetland Conservation provisions (AD-1026); self-certification with compliance with Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) provisions (current version, if determined to be needed); and for applicants applying as a legal entity or joint operation, listing of members associated with the business using either a current Members Information form (CCC901) or Farm Operating Plan for an Entity (CCC902).

Applicants who wish to designate a Power of Attorney to act on their behalf can use the joint FSA/NRCS Power of Attorney form (FSA-211) to identify people who can sign application and contract documents on their behalf.

Applicants are asked to identify the practice(s) for which they are requesting assistance and the farm(s) on which the proposed practices would be installed.

Forms are available online at USDA Service Center Agencies eforms or at a local USDA Service Center.

Evaluation and Ranking

A screening and ranking process is used to evaluate each application to determine which applications provide the most benefits and can be offered funding assistance.  Applicants with existing conservation program contracts that are out of compliance or behind schedule are assigned a low priority and not further ranked until other eligible applications are considered.

The review of applications will begin with applications received by the end of current signup cycle and will continue as long as funds are available.  Because of the large demand for assistance, funds are sometimes expended after a few ranking cycles.


Contracts will be awarded to applicants with the highest rankings until funds are depleted. Applications that cannot be funded can be retained for consideration in the following year.

People interested in wildlife habitat improvement practices, but whose applications cannot be funded in the current year,  are encouraged to develop a conservation plan that includes a wildlife habitat development and management component. 

Program Information

These files require Adobe Acrobat Reader

NRCS-CPA-1200 WHIP Application (PDF, 201KB)
Ranking Worksheet - 2014 Bog Turtle Habitat (Coming Soon)
Ranking Worksheet - 2014 Golden-Winged Warbler (Coming Soon)

Program Contacts

Ed Sanders
Incentives Program Manager
(717) 237-2201

Barry Frantz
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs