NRCS Adds New Target Species to Working Lands for Wildlife

The Working Lands for Wildlife program of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is adding dozens of new target species to its premier wildlife conservation effort that helps agricultural producers restore and protect habitat on privately owned farms, ranches and working forests.

bobwhite quail

When agricultural and forestry producers adopt conservation practices through WLFW, bobwhite quail benefit, along with a host of other wildlife species./NRCS

“Agriculture and wildlife both thrive together through landscape conservation,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “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.”

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) seeks to help declining species whose habitat needs can be compatible with agricultural practices and rural land management, and which benefit from science-based conservation practices carried out on private lands. Some of the new projects focus on one target species, such as the northern bobwhite quail, while others are aimed at groups of species, such as turtles in New York and the New England states.

Projects include:

  • Northern Bobwhite in Grasslands in Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky;
  • Northern Bobwhite in Pine Savannas in Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama;
  • Northeast Turtles in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Vermont;

Other wildlife that also will be helped by this expansion include shorebirds, ducks, fish and other aquatic life, primarily in the East but also as far west as Colorado and Alaska. When habitat is restored for these animals, many others kinds of wildlife also benefit. NRCS uses target species as indicators of the health of entire ecosystems.

NRCS staff members work with state and federal conservation partners to identify new species and landscapes in need of protection. Considerations include the compatibility of the species and agricultural and forestry practices, the network of available partners, and the specific food and cover needs of the species.
Working Lands for Wildlife Map
So far, WLFW has helped producers restore 6.7 million acres of habitat for seven target species, including the New England cottontail and greater sage grouse. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined last year that Endangered Species Act protections were not necessary for the cottontail and sage grouse largely because of the voluntary conservation efforts being carried out on working lands. (See WLFW New England cottontail progress report attachment at bottom of article.)

“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,” Weller said.

Through WLFW, NRCS strategically invests where conservation returns are highest and measures how wildlife respond to management activities to further refine conservation efforts and practices.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help producers adopt a variety of conservation practices on their land. NRCS staff members first help producers develop a conservation plan, and then provide funding to cover part of the costs for adopting the practices, which 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.

For more information, visit the NRCS website.