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News Release

NRCS to Expand Targeted Conservation Effort for Wildlife on Agricultural Lands

Russell Castro, State Wildlife Biologist or Mike Oliver, State Forester

New Project to Provide Opportunities for Producers to Restore, Protect Louisiana Pine Snake

Temple, Texas, April 6, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adding several new target species, including the Louisiana pine snake, to its premier wildlife conservation effort that helps agricultural producers make wildlife-friendly improvements on working lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is adding five new projects to Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), the agency’s targeted, science-based effort to help producers restore and protect habitat for declining species on farms, ranches and working forests.

“Agriculture and wildlife both thrive together through landscape conservation,” said Salvador Salinas, NRCS state conservationist in Texas. “We’re excited about this opportunity for Texas producers to help the Louisiana pine snake as well as improve their own operations.”

One of the five new projects focuses on restoring and protecting forest habitats for the Louisiana pine snake (LPS). The Louisiana pine snake is large, ranging up to 4-5 feet at maturity, and has a low fertility rate which contributes to a slow recovery of population size  The species home range is focused around those areas where populations of pocket gopher are plentiful. 

Through the LPS project, NRCS can provide additional technical and financial assistance in the Texas counties of Wood, Trinity, Polk, Hardin, Angelina, San Augustine, Newton, Sabine, Jasper, and in western-central Louisiana of Jackson, Bienville, Natchitoches, Sabine, Rapides, Vernon, Beauregard Parishes, to implement conservation practices that will restore longleaf pine trees and support or establish open, herbaceous dominated understory conditions in existing pine stands. 

Primary conservation practices include Prescribed Burning (338), Site Preparation (490), Tree and Shrub Establishment (612) for longleaf and shortleaf pine, Forage and Biomass Planting (512) for native grass and forbs, Forest Stand Improvement (666), Prescribed Grazing (528), Silvopasture (381), Early Successional Habitat Development and Management (647), and Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (645). 

The targeted habitat restoration effort will benefit several wildlife species, such as the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, Eastern wild turkey, Northern bobwhite quail and Henslow’s sparrow.

With more than two-thirds of the continental United States under private ownership, wildlife depend heavily on working lands for habitat and food. Projects focus on the declining species that have needs compatible with agricultural practices and rural land management and that can benefit from conservation on private lands.

NRCS staff worked with conservation partners to identify new species and landscapes. Considerations included the compatibility of the species and agriculture, the network of available partners and the needs of the species.

So far, WLFW has helped producers restore 8.4 million acres of habitat across the U.S. for eight target species, such as the Monarch butterfly and Golden winged warbler.  Texas currently has three other WLFW Projects being implemented throughout the state. 

“The future of wildlife, agriculture and rural ways of life depend on our collective ability to transfer our Working Lands for Wildlife model to more species and working landscapes,” Salinas said.

Through WLFW, NRCS strategically invests where conservation returns are highest and measures how wildlife respond to management activities to refine conservation efforts.

Own or Manage Land? You Can Help.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance without a fee to help producers adopt a variety of voluntary conservation practices on their land. These practices are designed to benefit both the species and the agricultural operation.

To learn more about assistance opportunities, landowners should contact their local USDA service center.