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March 27, 2012   Email to Friend 

Julie Yates, NRCS
(334) 887-4581
March 27, 2012

From left, NRCS State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett, USFWS Deputy Field Supervisor Dan Everson, NRCS State Wildlife Biologist Jeff Thurmond observe a gopher tortoise burrow.
AUBURN, Ala. -- USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett and Bill Pearson, Field Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Alabama Field Office in Daphne, announced a partnership opportunity for landowners to voluntarily restore and protect habitat for the gopher tortoise March 23. The announcement kicks-off the sign up period for the Working Lands for Wildlife initiative, which targets at-risk wildlife species across the country. 

Funding for this initiative is provided through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) administered by NRCS. Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis; however, applications for 2012 funding must be received by the following batching dates: April 30 and May 30. 

“Landowners can receive financial assistance for a number of habitat management practices such as prescribed burning,” said Puckett. 

Landowners with gopher tortoises on their property will rank highest for funding allocation. 

"We are excited about our strong partnership with NRCS to conserve the iconic gopher tortoise here in Alabama," said Pearson.  "We want to work with landowners on a voluntary basis to help the gopher tortoise endure on private lands. If we can do enough to conserve the species now, we can hopefully avoid the need to list it under the Endangered Species Act, our last line of defense.”

Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Individuals are not eligible for WHIP until they have completed the Farm Bill eligibility requirements. To begin the process, producers should contact their local NRCS or Farm Service Agency Office to begin this process. NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or online at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.

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