On March 8, 2012, the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior announced a new program for conserving wildlife habitat on private lands. Under the new program, Federal, state, and local wildlife experts will jointly identify at-risk species that would benefit from habitat restoration on private lands and, using the best available science, prioritize restoration actions on a regional scale. These efforts will initially be limited to seven species: the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis), bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii), golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), and Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus). In exchange for making the approved habitat improvements, the Departments are promising farmers, ranchers, and landowners that they will not be asked to take additional conservation measures in the future. The Departments plan to accomplish this through informal agreements, safe harbor agreements, and habitat conservation plans.
To learn more about this program, interested landowners should contact their local United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service field office.