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New England Cottontail Rabbit

Working Lands for Wildlife

Photo of New England Cottontail Rabbit

Photo credit: Meagan Racey / USFWS​


Applications are accepted on a continuous basis throughout the year although there is an open application ranking period deadline of April 21, 2017 for FY 2017 funding.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that can provide technical and financial assistance to people who want to create, enhance or restore native fish and wildlife habitat or restore natural ecosystems on their land. NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance for part of the cost of establishing and maintaining conservation practices that are necessary for enhancing and improving wildlife habitat and restoring natural ecosystems.

For FY 2017, 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. 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 Working Lands for Wildlife initiative. Participants voluntarily implement proven conservation practices designed to protect or enhance wildlife habitat for the New England cottontail rabbit on private lands.  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 primary threat to the New England cottontail is the loss of habitat through forest succession over time. As forests mature, the 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 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) 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. According to Gary Casabona, NRCS State Biologist, “The habitat management practices will assist with conservation of the New England cottontail through creation of additional scrub/shrub habitat. The increase in shrub thickets 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.”

Interested producers and landowners in Rhode Island along with Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York can sign up on a continuous basis throughout the year. In Rhode Island, interested producers and landowners should review the information below including the application materials and documents. For additional information on Working Lands for Wildlife, please contact Gary Casabona, State Biologist, at (401) 822-8837 or by E-mail at gary.casabona@ri.usda.gov.

The following document requires Acrobat Reader.

See the EQIP Application Materials and Documents page to download required forms and other program materials.

New England Cottontail Rabbit Fact Sheet (PDF, 361 KB)

Saving the New England Cottontail-Conservationists from six New England states are working to increase their population. Rhode Island Monthly article August 2016 

Map of New England Cottontail Rabbit Focus Area, Rhode Island Specific Map (PDF, 361 KB)

Map of New England Cottontail Rabbit Focus Area, New England Map (PDF, 189 KB)