USDA Announces $50 Million to Help Producers Restore Habitat

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is making available about $50 million in financial assistance in 2016 to partner with agricultural producers who want to restore and protect habitat for seven focus species, including more than $2.8 million for the lesser prairie-chicken.

Conservation efforts for the lesser prairie-chicken are part of Working Lands for Wildlife, an innovative partnership that supports struggling landscapes and strengthens agricultural operations.

In making the announcement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that the decisions of agricultural producers have powerful impacts on wildlife and the long-term health of their own land.

Removing invasive redcedars in southwest Kansas.

Removing invasive redcedars in southwest Kansas.

“The partnerships formed through our Working Lands for Wildlife initiative have had proven success for bringing back several of America’s native species,” Vilsack said. “By managing ranches with sage grouse and other wildlife in mind, producers also strengthen their own operations, boost resilience and increase agricultural yields.”

In addition to funding lesser prairie-chicken habitat improvement through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), Vilsack announced more than $47 million available in 2016 to support six other WLFW initiatives for focus species across the country, including the greater sage grouse, New England cottontail, southwestern willow flycatcher, golden-winged warbler, gopher tortoise, and bog turtle.

With the support of conservation partners and producers, NRCS launched the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI) in 2010. Those efforts became one of the models for WLFW, which began two years later.

Since 2010, the NRCS-led LPCI partnership has worked with land managers to make conservation improvements on more than one million acres of habitat, benefitting the lesser prairie-chicken and more than 60 other prairie-dependent species.

“Working Lands for Wildlife helps land managers integrate wildlife-friendly measures into their working lands and also ensures they can keep those lands working,” said Jon Ungerer, LPCI Coordinator. “Conservation practices funded through LPCI are designed to provide long-term benefits for lesser prairie-chickens. These practices maintain and protect grassland habitat, which benefits livestock production and wildlife.”

Landowners in the LPCI Action Area  can apply for technical and financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program. NRCS financial assistance covers part of the cost to implement conservation practices that benefit the lesser prairie-chicken.

Interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local USDA service center.