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December 12, 2012   Email to Friend 

Julie Yates, NRCS
(334) 887-4581
December 12, 2012

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett announced a partnership opportunity for landowners to voluntarily restore and protect habitat for the gopher tortoise, Dec. 6. This program targets at-risk wildlife species across the country.

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

The gopher tortoise is the species of concern for parts of six states.  It is a ground burrowing turtle found in southern Alabama whose habitat is sandy, well-drained soils. Management practices that benefit the gopher tortoise also benefit quail, turkey, deer, and many other wildlife species. Gopher tortoise habitat management, in most situations, is compatible with and even enhances forest production. Landowners with gopher tortoises on their property will rank highest for funding allocation.

Financial assistance is available for practices including:

  • Longleaf pine planting at any spacing between 10 x 12 feet (363 trees per acre) and 8 x 12 feet (454 trees per acre)
  • Pre-commercial thinning to below 500 trees per acre
  • Native warm season grass and forbs planting
  • Mid-rotation release of pine timber by removing hardwood brush
  • Release of young longleaf pine trees by removing hardwood competition
  • Other supporting practices such as firebreaks, site preparation for longleaf planting, and invasive species control may also be eligible

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 2013 funding must be received by Jan. 25.

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. Contact the 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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