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Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)

Offering cost-sharing and technical assistance to improve wildlife habitat

Program Basics

The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is designed to help landowners and those who are in control of acreage develop and preserve important wildlife habitat for future generations. The program offers technical assistance and cost-sharing opportunities for establishing a wildlife habitat development plan and for managing the land in accordance with that plan. The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with state and local partners to establish wildlife habitat priorities in each state. NRCS will provide cost-share payments up to 75 percent of the cost of installing wildlife habitat development practices on the land. Agreements are generally for a 5- to 10-year period. WHIP also provides long-term 15-year agreements where NRCS will provide up to 100 percent of the cost for implementing practices that benefit rare habitats.

Project Examples
Each state has established several wildlife priorities, including one or more upland and riparian habitats. Nationally, acres have been distributed among four major habitat types:

Application and Financial Information
WHIP applications will be accepted at local USDA Service Centers or conservation district offices. They may also be accepted by cooperating conservation partners approved or designated by NRCS.

Participants work with NRCS to prepare a wildlife habitat development plan in consultation with the local conservation district. The agreement describes the landowner's goals for improving wildlife habitat, includes a list of practices and schedule for installing them, and details the steps necessary to maintain the habitat for the life of the agreement. The NRCS and the participant enter into a cost-share agreement for wildlife habitat development.

This agreement generally lasts 5 to 10 years from the date the contract is signed. Under the agreement:

Additional financial or technical assistance may be available through cooperating partners.

Applications will be ranked according to a state-developed plan, and those that provide the greatest wildlife benefits will be funded. The goal is to provide the best habitat possible for the species of fish and wildlife that the landowner or land steward is trying to protect. Costshare payments may be used to establish, maintain, or replace practices.

The budget for WHIP is authorized at a total of $360 million from 2002-2007. Funds are allocated to states based on wildlife conservation priorities which will vary by state, and may include special pilot programs for wildlife habitat development, targeted species and their habitats, specific practices, and cooperative agreements with other federal, state, or local agencies, conservation districts, or private conservation groups.

Eligibility, Uses, and Restrictions
To participate in WHIP, applicants must own or have control of the land under consideration.

Applications may be accepted from individuals, groups, or businesses.

Lands that are eligible are: Private agricultural lands; Nonindustrial private forest land; Tribal lands.

Land is not eligible for WHIP if it is publicly owned lands (Federal, State, County, or local government owned lands); land enrolled in Waterbank, Emergency Watershed Program floodplain easements, Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, or other similar programs; or land where the expected impact from off-site conditions makes the success of habitat improvement unlikely. WHIP funds cannot be used for mitigation of any kind. Such land can be included in a WHIP cost-share agreement, however cost-share funds cannot be expended on those acres.

Applicants create a wildlife habitat development plan for the land with assistance from the USDA or an approved certified technical service provider. Participants are encouraged to select native plants and native plant communities because these are well adapted to the area, less invasive, and likely to provide quality habitat without costly maintenance expenses.

WHIP funds are to be directed to support state wildlife habitat priorities which may include wildlife habitat areas; targeted species and their habitats; specific practices; and cooperative agreements with other federal, state, or local agencies, conservation districts, or private conservation groups. State priorities are developed in consultation with the State Technical Committee. The total WHIP payment made or attributed per person or legal entity (participant) directly or indirectly may not exceed in the aggregate $50,000 for any fiscal year.


For more information, contact the NRCS through your local USDA Service Center.

Albert Cerna, National Program Leader
National Program Office
Financial Assistance Programs Division
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Phone: (202) 720-9358

Last Updated November 3, 2009

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