Cutoff date for NCRS wildlife habitat program will be Feb. 8

The Natural Resources Con?servation Service has designated Feb. 8 as the cutoff date for producers to submit Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program applications to be considered for fiscal year 2008 funding.

The WHIP is a voluntary program through NRCS for land?owners who want to develop or improve wildlife habitat on private lands.

Anyone interested in learning more about improving wild?life habitat and would like to submit an application for program assistance can do so at any time.

The following are two examples for using WHIP to enhance existing habitat:

n There are several declining species of wildlife that are closely associated with grasslands. Prairie chickens and bobwhite quail are two familiar examples. Conservation practices offered through WHIP can greatly improve habitat for these species.

Invasive trees have become a problem throughout the state on native grasslands. Trees adversely influence prairie chicken abundance on grasslands. WHIP offers two conservation practices to control unwanted invasive trees: brush management and prescribed burning.

By removing invasive trees, applying a prescribed burn once every three or four years, and practicing proper grazing management, habitat for prairie chickens, bobwhite quail and many species of non-game birds can be improved dramatically.

Vegetation that normally grows within 300 feet of a stream, called a riparian area, provides habitat for turkeys, deer and bobwhite quail.

n Stream-side vegetation also provides shade and habitat for aquatic species living within the stream itself. More than 60 percent of the species classified as threatened and endangered in Kansas rely on streams and riparian habitat to survive.

Riparian areas that are being degraded by uncontrolled livestock access can be improved by installing fencing through WHIP.

WHIP can also help develop alternative water sources for livestock to keep them from damaging vegetation and reducing water quality in streams.

Areas prone to erosion within riparian areas or on cropland next to streams can be seeded back to native grasses and wildflowers to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.

Conservation practices that enhance existing habitat are often more cost effective and meet habitat objectives relatively quicker than establishing new habitat.

Landowners should contact their local NRCS field office located at the Marion USDA Service Center to submit an application.

Applicants can expect funding decisions to be completed in the early spring of 2008.

For more information about NRCS programs, visit the Kansas NRCS Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov.

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