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Conservation Corner

NRCS to Expand Targeted Conservation Effort for Wildlife on Agricultural Lands

Thu, March 29, 2018

From the Hawaiian nene to salamanders and turtles, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adding several new target species to its premier wildlife conservation effort that helps agricultural producers make voluntary 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. Through a locally led process, Working Lands for Wildlife has delivered many unprecedented successes over the years and we’re proud of our collective past achievements and look forward to continuing our work with America’s producers.

With more than two-thirds of the continental United States under private ownership, projects focus on declining species that have needs compatible with agricultural practices and rural land management and that can benefit from conservation on private lands. Some of the new projects focus on one target species; others focus on a group of species.

New projects include:

• Northern Plains Grassland in South Dakota and North Dakota;
• Blanding’s Turtle in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio;
• Louisiana Pine Snake in Louisiana and Texas;
• Hawaiian nene in Hawaii; and
• Eastern Hellbender in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

When habitat is restored for these species, many others benefit. NRCS uses species as indicators of the health of the ecosystem at-large.  I can verify that when I visit the WRE site in southern Tazewell County that we are working on.  It is geared towards wetland wildlife habitat currently, but we see many pheasants there in the Native prairie grasses and forbs serving as upland buffer habitat. Many other birds are using the site.  It is the only habitat location around in the middle of the corn and soybean fields.  It serves as a habitat oasis.  Adding some milkweed habitat would benefit the monarch butterfly.


NRCS staff worked with local partners to expand opportunities for producers to address wildlife needs. Considerations included the compatibility of the species and agriculture, the network of available partners and the needs of the species.

Working Lands for Wildlife Conservation Model

So far, WLFW has helped producers restore 8.4 million acres of habitat for eight target species, such as the Monarch butterfly and Golden winged warbler.

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.  I am really looking forward to hearing about how this proposal for the Blanding’s turtle will work as I have mentioned I have identified 8-9 potential wetland restoration sites in Tazewell County.

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 to help producers adopt a variety of conservation practices on their land. NRCS staff help producers with a conservation plan and provide funding to cover part of the costs for adopting the practices. 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.