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Federal Programs Offer Opportunities for Wildlife, Forestry Improvements

Thursday, February 06, 2014 | 02:26am

NASHVILLE --- For persons interested in performing active management on their property to establish or improve wetlands, riparian (streamside) areas, forest lands, or other upland habitats for wildlife and pollinators, now is the time to request a plan and apply for financial assistance if desired.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has notified the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency that enrollment is continuing for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). While the first application deadline was Jan. 17, producers and other farmland owners can continue to submit applications at their local NRCS office as applications may be approved and funded throughout the year.

Improvements of woodlands and timber stands, wetland enhancement and creation, pollinator habitat establishment, prescribed burning, and other wildlife habitat improvements can be planned and may be selected for financial assistance.  

A new effort, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative, is underway in both the WHIP and EQIP programs for land managers desiring to establish or manage this native Tennessee pine that once commonly occurred across the eastern third of the state along with parts of middle and west Tennessee on the Highland Rim. 

“This fiscal year brought the largest pot of EQIP funding in Tennessee we’ve ever had,” said NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs John Rissler. “The EQIP program contains a wide range of conservation practices that benefit all types of agricultural producers and that help implement practices to benefit soil health and productivity, improve water quality, and also improve forest health and quality. Wildlife benefits can often be integrated into many EQIP practices primarily targeted at other resource needs.”

Along with four NRCS area biologists, the TWRA has four area wildlife biologists that meet with landowners to develop management plans free-of-charge and help guide them through plan implementation. They also direct them to which conservation programs best fit their situation.  

 “More than 90 percent of Tennessee lands are privately owned,” TWRA Private Lands Liaison Mark Gudlin notes. “In order to manage for secure and abundant populations of all our state’s fish and wildlife, it is imperative that we need to assist private landowners to provide good habitat and clean waters to meet our agency’s mission.”

Eligibility for programs and acceptance of applications are made at the local NRCS office. Contact information for the USDA offices, TWRA Private Lands Biologists and other land management professionals can be found at www.twraprivatelands.org  or by calling the TWRA Wildlife and Forestry Division at 615-781-6610.

---TWRA---

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