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Habitat Programs and Grants


Through efforts of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, Tennessee Division of Forestry, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are a variety of programs available for private landowners to get technical advice & financial assistance to conserve and enhance their land with wildlife in mind.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation Program

Tennessee Wildlife Federation's Habitat Conservation Program

Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Habitat Conservation program partners with private landowners and public agencies to restore and conserve habitat in all four major habitat types in Tennessee—wetlands, grasslands, forests, and streams. The program also leverages its expertise and connections to facilitate the acquisition of critical lands to improve access to Tennessee’s most prized public lands.

The Habitat Conservation program carefully seeks projects that provide significant value to the context of the surrounding landscape, not simply create isolated habitat. These restoration and conservation projects are possible through a variety of funding sources, including fee-for-service agreements, grants, mitigation fees, and government contracts.

To learn more about the program and if your property may be eligible, visit or contact Chris Roberts, director of conservation, at (615) 353-1133.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Programs

Farm Wildlife Habitat Program (FWHP)

TWRA’s Farm Wildlife Habitat Program is a modestly funded cost-share program intended to complement and “fill in the gaps” in major conservation programs available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is used for qualified projects on lands not eligible for USDA funding, practices that complement existing habitat conversions already under a USDA contract, or assist a landowner to begin implementing habitat projects in a timely manner when USDA funds are not available.

Under an approved plan written by a TWRA Private Lands Biologist, the program provides 75% cost share reimbursement at a maximum of $2,000 in any state fiscal year to implement prescribed habitat practices intended to restore and manage native habitats. Habitat improvements are targeted to assist grassland and shrubland species in decline including bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and many songbirds. Habitat practices include restoration of native grassland and “old field” habitats, hedgerow and shrub thicket development, forest edge thinning, eradication of invasive plants, and management practices such as prescribed burning, strip disking and herbicide application, and interseeding of native forbs and wildflowers.

Upon approval of a FWHP plan that includes at least 5 acres of habitat practices, the landowner signs the contract agreeing to protect the improved habitat for 5 years. After the practices are implemented, the landowner is reimbursed at the specified practice rates based on 75% of established state average practice costs. Applicants are considered on a first-come, first-served basis.

NOTE: While State employees and/or their spouses can receive free technical assistance from TWRA through the Farm Wildlife Habitat Program, Tennessee state law prohibits them from receiving any direct or indirect payments.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation Programs

Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program (TSMP)

The Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program (TSMP) was created to offset adverse physical impacts associated with both state and federal water quality permits. The goal of the TSMP is to both improve water quality and riparian habitat in and along Tennessee’s degraded aquatic resources. The TSMP is a statewide program that provides 100% cost share for all projects it funds. Stream restoration, bank stabilization, riparian restoration and livestock exclusion are a few examples of the types of mitigation opportunities that the TSMP is looking for throughout the state. Through valuable partnerships with government agencies such as NRCS, TDEC, TDA and non-profit conservation groups, the TSMP identifies streams where the physical habitat has been impaired or degraded. With permission and cooperation from participating landowners, the TSMP designs and implements mitigation projects that benefit both the stream and the landowner. All TSMP projects are constructed at no cost to the landowner. Mitigation projects are monitored for success over a period of two to five years and must be protected by a perpetual land preservation agreement held by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. To learn more about the TSMP please visit the Web site at or contact at 615-831-9311.

Tennessee Division of Forestry Programs

Forest Stewardship Program

The Forest Stewardship program makes forestry assistance available to private forest landowners and increases public awareness about wise forest use and management. The program focuses on developing detailed plans for privately owned forestland based on specific objectives of the owner. Free, on-the-ground planning assistance is provided by natural resource specialists under the leadership of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.

Depending upon landowners' objectives, stewardship plans may contain detailed recommendations for improvement of wildlife habitat and development of recreational opportunities, as well as for timber establishment, stand improvement and harvesting. Guidelines for prevention of soil erosion, protection of water quality, and preservation of visual values are included in all stewardship plans.

To qualify, landowners must:

have 10 acres or more of forestland

  • obtain and implement a forest stewardship plan
  • have at least one secondary management objective in addition to their primary objective
  • protect the land from erosion and prevent pollution of streams and lakes
  • carry out the plan according to standards which maintain the productivity of forest resources and protect the environment.

For more information on this program, contact your local area forester.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Programs

Partners for Fish and Wildlife

Buffer Your Streams & Sinkholes 

This program seeks to restore, improve, and protect fish and wildlife habitat on private lands through alliances between the USFWS, other organizations, and individuals while leaving the land in private ownership. Eligible projects are those that benefit wetlands and their adjacent uplands, state or federal threatened and endangered species, forested riparian habitat, and another important migratory bird habitat, such as native grassland restoration. Applicants work with the USFWS program coordinator to submit a project proposal by October 1. Projects are then ranked according to anticipated ecological benefits, and funding is typically awarded in February. The contract length is a minimum of 10 years. Contact Bryan Watkins, State Coordinator, at 931-525-4996 or, Cookeville USFWS office or

Cooperative Partnership

Tennessee Partners Project (TPP)

This program is co-sponsored by Ducks Unlimited, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of Tennessee Extension Service. It is designed to provide wintering water and food sources for waterfowl and associated wetland species in the Tennessee portion of the birds’ migration route. Participation landowners receive a project construction plan (if needed), water control structure materials, technical assistance during installation, and management recommendations. Projects receiving material assistance should encompass a minimum of 5 acres of surface water and adjacent habitat buffer zones. Participants agree to sign a minimum 10-year Wetland Development Agreement, not permit hunting after 12 noon, and permit an annual inspection by any representation of the partners. Contact Bob Harris, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., 2001-G South Commerce St., Grenada, MS, 38901, 662-226-6880, .

US Department of Agriculture Programs

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General Signup

This program takes highly erodible and other environmentally sensitive lands out of crop production and establishes a soil-conserving vegetative cover on them under a 10-year contract. Periodic signup periods are announced by USDA when applicants can offer whole-field enrollments. Applications are scored and ranked against other applications from across the country. USDA later announces the minimum score that will be accepted for enrollment under contracts. Options most beneficial to wildlife, such as CP2 Native Grasses and CP4D Permanent Wildlife Habitat offer the potential for higher scores and a greater likelihood of offer acceptance. In the CRP, the participant receives an annual payment during the term of the contract in addition to 50% cost-share for cover establishment and required management. Contact your local Farm Services Agency office regarding eligibility and details. The standard 50% cost-share for cover establishment, annual maintenance, and rental payments is limited to a maximum of $50,000.

Conservation Reserve Program Continuous Signup (CCRP)

Continuous CRP Signup Practices Enrollment Resumes

Buffer Your Streams & Sinkholes 

TN Wetlands Practice Incentives

SAFE Bobwhite Practice

This portion of the Conservation Reserve Program includes the most environmentally beneficial, small acreage or buffer (strip) practices. Unlike the General Signup, a landowner can apply at any time and if the landowner is eligible and the land being offered meets the criteria for a specific practice, the offer will be automatically accepted by USDA. In addition, some of the practices qualify for an annual payment that is 20% higher than the same land offered under the General Signup practices, plus qualify for an up-front Signing Incentive Payment of $100 per acre, plus an additional Payment Incentive Practice of 40% of the cover establishment cost. CCRP practices in Tennessee include:

1 = 20% higher annual payment / 2= SIP and PIP payments/ 3= SIP only/ 4= SIP is $150 per acre

Contact your local Farm Services Agency office for eligibility and details.

Wetland Program Guide for Conservation Planners 

Tenn. CP33 Monitoring Results 2006-2011 

Links to the following USDA-NRCS programs can be found by clicking here.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Buffer Your Streams & Sinkholes  

The purpose of the EQIP program is to install and maintain conservation practices that sustain food and fiber production while enhancing soil, water, and related natural resources and energy conservation. Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forestland and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes confined livestock feeding operations, crop, range and pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland that is not under a CRP contract. Offers are scored according to specific practices to be implemented and are ranked once per year. Includes planning for organic production, forest, wildlife, wetland, grazing, nutrient, air quality, invasive species, residue, animal carcass, pest, pollinator, and fuel management and energy production. Some practices are ranked competitively within the county while other practices may be ranked competitively statewide.

The program provides 75% cost share on most contracts for implemented practices. Higher cost-share (up to 90%) may be available to the beginning, limited resource or socially disadvantaged farmers. The contract length can be from 1 to 10 years; the minimum length is one year after a practice has been implemented. Practices beneficial to wildlife are exclusion or limited access of livestock to streams, streambank stabilization, wildlife field borders, and conversion of cropland or exotic pasture grasses to native warm-season grasses for forage or strictly for wildlife cover, and management of forestlands for at-risk wildlife species.

The contract length is a minimum of 1 year after implementation of the last scheduled practice, a maximum of 10 years. The program provides an overall payment limitation of $300,000 per individual, regardless of the number of farms or contracts, over 6 years, with possible wavier to $450,000.

Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

Visit  or contact your local NRCS office.  To locate your local NRCS office, visit

The goal of this program is to restore wetlands on private or tribal property through the acquisition of conservation easements or agreements. Eligible lands include agricultural lands with restorable wetlands that include prior converted wetlands, farmed wetlands, or farmed wetland pastures, or wooded wetlands that have been drained and hydrology can be restored. The land had to have been owned for a minimum of 7 years by the applicant. The landowner has three options:

  • A 10-year Restoration Agreement, under which the landowner receives payment for 75% of restoration costs; no easement is placed on the property but payments are limited to $50,000 annually.
  • A 30-year Easement, under which the landowner receives 75% of restoration costs plus the lower of 1) 75% of the appraised value of the property based on federal land acquisition rules, or 2) 75% of an amount offered by the landowner, or 3) 100% of the county geographic rate cap.
  • A Permanent Easement, under which the landowner receives 100% of restoration costs plus the lower of 100% of 1) the appraised value of the property based on federal land acquisition rules, 2) the amount offered by the landowner, or 3) the county geographic rate cap.

The landowner controls access, non-developed recreational activities (hunting, fishing) and the right to lease recreational uses for financial gain. Other uses must be approved.

In Tennessee, wetland restoration will consist primarily of restoring bottomland hardwoods and reversing all in-field drainage systems currently in existence. A Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations will be developed scheduling conservation practices installation, cost share to be provided for essential practices, and practices necessary to manage and maintain the wetlands. Up to 30% of the easement area may be left open and established to different habitat types such as shallow water areas for waterfowl, native grass plantings, and up to 5% in food plots. Easement payments may be made as lump sum or from 5 to 30 annual payments through the Commodity Credit Corporation. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes on Tribal and private working lands not currently enrolled in CRP, WRP, and GRP. Working lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pasture, and range land, as well as forested land that is an incidental part of an agriculture operation. The program provides equitable access to benefits to all producers, regardless of size of operation, crops produced or geographic location. Applications are ranked on present and proposed conservation activities, number and extent of resource concerns addressed and cost effectiveness of expected environmental benefits. Applicants must account for stewardship operations covering their entire agricultural operation. Wildlife is a resource concern that can be addressed in CSP practices and enhancements. The program payment cap is $200,000/5 years/person or legal entity.

Wildlife is a resource concern that can be addressed in CSP practices and enhancements. For further information on land eligibility, contract payments, and how CSP works, you can contact your local USDA Service Center.


Tallassee Fund

A conservation fund, known as the Tallassee Fund, will address the unavoidable ongoing and cumulative impacts of the operation of the Brookfield Smoky Mountain Hydro (BSMH) Project formerly known as the Tapoco Project.    The fund will provide for conservation activities to offset project-related impacts to land and water resources in the Lower Little Tennessee River Valley in the vicinity of the Chilhowee and Calderwood developments.    A variety of conservation needs were identified during the collaborative licensing process; others are ongoing activities that address project-related impacts that should be considered as part of a mitigation package and settlement agreement for the Tennessee portion of the BSMH Project. Specific objectives include:

  • Provide funding for land and water conservation activities on an ongoing basis during the forty (40) year term of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued license for the Tapoco Project.
  • Encourage focused land and water stewardship, restoration, and enhancement activities that compliment regional conservation priorities.

Agency/Organization Goals

The specific objectives/goals of natural resource agencies/organizations for this area include:

  • Restore limited areas of free-flowing warm- and cool-water habitats.
  • Recover imperiled species.
  • Restore extirpated plant and animal populations.
  • Restore and protect riparian corridors and habitats.
  • Provide outdoor recreational opportunities.
  • Control invasive exotic species.
  • Educate decision makers and citizens about the importance of this unique resource.

Conservation Activities

Broad categories of ongoing land and water management activities in the Lower Little Tennessee River area over the last 10 years provide an indication of what could be expected in the near future. Many of these activities are directly related to the ongoing impacts of the Tapoco project.

  • Environmental education.
  • Exotic species control (e.g., terrestrial and aquatic plants, wild hogs, etc.).
  • Fish stocking.
  • Fish propagation and translocation.
  • Restoration effectiveness monitoring.
  • Land/forest management.
  • Land protection/conservation.
  • Riparian conservation.
  • Research related to impact assessment and management.
  • Nature-based recreation management and enhancement.

The Fund

The amount of the fund will be a maximum of $100,000 annually for the term forty (40) year term of the license. Grants may be provided in multi-year increments to encourage sustained conservation efforts. Grants from the fund may be combined with funds from other sources for more comprehensive mitigation or enhancement projects.

Geographic Scope

The geographic scope of this proposal includes the Lower Little Tennessee Valley in the vicinity of the Calderwood and Chilhowee developments (Figure 1). The proposed mitigation fund will address project-related land and water conservation needs in the Lower Little Tennessee watershed downstream of the Tennessee – North Carolina state line.

Examples of current and future land and water conservation efforts in the Lower Little Tennessee River watershed, with a focus on activities related to the ongoing impairments cause by the Calderwood and Chilhowee Developments of the Tapoco Project (FERC #P-2169).




Native Fish



Fish Stocking: Calderwood, Chilhowee



Mussel/snail restoration



Exotic plant control

NPS, Alcoa Foundation


Zebra mussel monitoring/control



Streambank stabilization



Hemlock adelgid control



Mussel habitat analysis, propagation



Public Awareness/Conservation Education efforts



Forest habitat enhancement



Calderwood By-Pass management



Recreation enhancement



Tennessee Aquatic Stream Clean Up and Riparian Tree Grant

Fill out the application and send it to the following:
ATTN: Della Sawyers
PO Box 40747
Nashville, TN 37204
or email to