Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar Thursday announced a new $33 million partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches to restore and protect the habitats for wildlife, including seven at-risk species and other vulnerable game species.
Called the Working Lands for Wildlife, the program will be operated through the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We believe that working with the Department of the Interior we can provide landowners with regulatory assurances that they can continue to make a living on their lands while implementing conservation actions to benefit declining species," Vilsack said. "Under this approach we are making a strong conservation commitment. Landowners will be assured that they will not be asked to take additional actions if species continue to decline and are listed under the Endangered Species Act."
Using the best available science, the partners will prioritize restoration actions on a large regional scale to most cost effectively focus assistance. In return for voluntarily making habitat improvements on their lands, the Federal government will provide landowners with regulatory certainty that they will not be asked to take additional conservation actions.
"The program introduces economic and other incentives for private landowners to align with these conservation goals," Salazar said. "The voluntary cooperation of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners is essential to the conservation of many of these imperiled species and this initiative rewards landowners for doing good things on their land."
Interested producers and landowners in targeted areas can enroll in the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program on a continuous basis at their local NRCS field office. NRCS funds from WHIP will share the cost of conservation practices with landowners in areas known to support one or more of the selected species.
For more information about Working Lands for Wildlife, click HERE. To listen to Secretaries Vilsack and Salazar talk about the program, use the audio player on this page.