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News Release

NRCS Announces Additional Ranking Period (May 17, 2013) for the New England Cottontail Rabbit Habitat

Walter Marshall, Public Affairs Specialist
(401) 822-8816

WARWICK, RI (March 21, 2013)– NRCS announced an additional ranking period in FY 2013 for the Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative to conserve habitat for wildlife species including the New England cottontail rabbit. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis throughout the year although there are application ranking periods including April 19, 2013 (Period 3) and now an additional ranking period of May 17, 2013 (Period 4) was announced today.

For FY 2013, NRCS continues an innovative Working Lands for Wildlife partnership to preserve working lands and conserve habitat for wildlife species including the New England cottontail rabbit. In 2012, NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reached an historic agreement to extend wildlife conservation efforts on working agricultural lands that will provide long-term regulatory predictability for up to 30 years to RI farmers and forest landowners participating in the initiative. Participants voluntarily implement proven conservation practices designed to protect wildlife habitat such as the New England cottontail rabbit on private lands.

To watch a YouTube video explaining the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) initiative, please select the following link in your Web browser:

Working Lands for Wildlife is a national effort with $33 million in funding nationwide from the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). In FY 2012, Rhode Island NRCS obligated over $227,000 in contracts to improve New England cottontail rabbit habitat. The partnership will demonstrate that productive working rural lands are compatible with the needs of sensitive wildlife species. Nationally, other at risk species include the bog turtle, golden-winged warbler, gopher tortoise, greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken, and Southwestern willow flycatcher. The New England cottontail rabbit was 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 the loss of habitat through succession. As forests mature, understory thins to such an extent that the habitat is no longer suitable for the New England cottontail. Fragmentation serves to further degrade habitat on a larger scale. Infestation of invasive plants and alterations of hydrology are additional common resource concerns affecting the New England cottontail.

Technical and financial assistance is provided under the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to develop and improve habitat within designated high-priority habitat areas. Specific practices for habitat improvement include brush management and weed control to manage invasive plants, reestablishment of native woody vegetation, and cutting trees and shrubs to encourage dense forest understory regeneration. The habitat management practices will assist with conservation of the New England cottontail through creation of additional scrub/shrub habitat. The increase in shrub thicket and early successional habitat will greatly benefit an additional 59 species of wildlife in New England such as wild turkeys, woodcock, migratory song birds, and ruffed grouse.

For more information about Working Lands for Wildlife in Rhode Island, please visit:

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers and forest landowners conserve the Nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. # USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), 800-877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866-367-8642 (Relay voice users).