Habitat Enhancements for Wildlife and Landowners -
Do you own or manage non-federal lands in New Jersey? Are you
interested in enhancing these lands for local wildlife species?
Then the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) may
be perfect for you. With the application period for 2007 WHIP
funding closing in late October, you'll want to learn what this
program has to offer and determine your eligibility soon.
WHIP is part of the US
Department of Agriculture's Farm Bill. Through WHIP, qualified
landowners can receive technical and financial assistance for
creating, enhancing and maintaining wildlife habitat on non-federal
lands. The Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers WHIP.
Local NRCS soil conservationists at NRCS's six field offices,
and regional biologists in northern and southern New Jersey,
are available to work with interested landowners to develop
and implement management plans for the property they manage.
WHIP is part of the US Department of Agriculture's Farm Bill. Through WHIP, qualified landowners can receive technical and financial assistance for creating, enhancing and maintaining wildlife habitat on non-federal lands. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers WHIP. Local NRCS soil conservationists at NRCS's six field offices, and regional biologists in northern and southern New Jersey, are available to work with interested landowners to develop and implement management plans for the property they manage.
Hunterdon County farmer John DeGeranimo seeding native grasses in Readington Township as part of a Federal-State-Township-Pheasants Forever cooperative WHIP project in spring 2006.
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Since 1998 WHIP has provided New Jersey landowners with more than $3 million in financial assistance as well as valuable technical assistance from NRCS biologists and conservationists. In addition biological assistance is available to landowners from partners like the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife.
Mixed stand of switchgrass, indiangrass and bluestem provides important winter wildlife cover. Stand was established under a WHIP agreement on Beaver Brook WMA in Warren County.
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2006 alone, thirty contracts totaling $780,000 were awarded to
individual landowners. In addition NRCS established five cooperative
agreements with conservation organizations. Through these cooperative
agreements, NRCS will contribute $540,000 toward activities that
will enhance over 3,223 acres of grassland, riparian lands, and
other habitat throughout New Jersey.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife was the recipient of one of the cooperative agreements with NRCS in 2006. The primary focus of that agreement is to create, enhance or maintain early successional habitats, such as grasslands, on state wildlife management areas (WMA's) throughout New Jersey.
If you hunt, fish, hike or go birding on state WMA's you may have already seen some of the work being accomplished. Overgrown multiflora rose fields have been brush hogged. Native grasses such as switchgrass, indiangrass and bluestem have been planted. Prescribed burning has taken place on some native grass fields.
Private lands are also a primary target of WHIP efforts in New Jersey and individual landowners and hunting clubs have also received financial and technical assistance. Projects such as habitat enhancements for the federally threatened bog turtle, control of invasive exotic plant species, stream restoration and grassland management have all been accomplished on thousands of acres of private lands since WHIP's inception in 1998. Cooperative projects continue to increase with help from non-governmental groups such as Pheasants Forever and Trout Unlimited.
After meeting with New Jersey wildlife agencies and organizations in June 2006, and reviewing the state's Wildlife Action Plan, NRCS updated the WHIP State Plan. Included in the new state plan are five focal areas for wildlife habitat enhancements under WHIP in New Jersey:
The application period for WHIP 2007 will close on October 27, 2006. NRCS is attempting to streamline the sometimes difficult process of planning, ranking, and contracting with this deadline in October in order to facilitate habitat management project starts in early spring 2007.
If you have a habitat enhancement project in mind, contact your local NRCS office. serving your county:
Sussex, Morris, Warren Counties: 908-852-2576 ext. 3 - Hackettstown
Hunterdon, Somerset, and Union Counties: 908-782-4614 ext. 3 - Frenchtown
Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth Counties: 732-462-0075 ext. 3 - Freehold
Burlington, Camden, and Ocean Counties: 609-748-2065 - Port Republic
Gloucester and Salem Counties: 856-769-1126 ext. 3 - Woodstown
Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland Counties: 856-205-1225 ext. 3 - Vineland
Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Passaic Counties: 732-537-6057 - Somerset
WHIP program information is also available online at www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/.