How can a landowner sift through all the details of planning a wildlife habitat?
The world of government programs is vast, and it can appear overwhelming. It’s no different when it comes to programs set up specifically for wildlife habitat. As an introductory example, you’re about to wade through what we in the business fondly call “alphabet soup.” If you only remember one thing from what I’m about to tell you, remember that there is help available. The advice is always free of charge; and if you qualify, you can receive money to reimburse you for your out-of-pocket habitat expenses.
When it comes to agricultural lands, the first place to look for assistance is the “Farm Bill.” The Farm Bill includes the well-known Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), its lesser known cousin, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and a handful of other even lesser known but equally lucrative programs. The Farm Bill is another name for Title II of the Agricultural Act of 2014. Versions of this Act have been around since the 1980s, and we expect to have a new version in 2018. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers Farm Bill programs through local field offices (called service centers), and there is a local USDA service center within driving distance of just about everyone in the Midwest. For professional wildlife habitat assistance, the USDA often seeks technical assistance from the state’s wildlife agency or from a “Farm Bill Biologist.”
Farm Bill Biologist
Farm Bill Biologists are college-educated wildlife biologists employed by Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever. In Indiana, Farm Bill Biologists provide wildlife habitat technical assistance through a partnership agreement with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources—Division of Fish and Wildlife (IDNR-DFW), and the US Department of Agriculture—Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). In simple terms this means that for a large part of Indiana, it’s the Farm Bill Biologist who helps you improve your wildlife habitat through USDA Farm Bill programs like CRP. Outside of Farm Bill Biologist coverage areas, DFW private lands biologists provide assistance. You can call or email your area Farm Bill Biologist to find out more.
How can a landowner get started?
What does wildlife habitat technical assistance from a Farm Bill Biologist consist of? Well, it usually starts off with a phone conversation and an on-site evaluation. From there, the biologist will point you to the appropriate program and tell you where to go to sign up for it. Once you sign up, the biologist will work with you to plan your habitat. The resulting “habitat plan” will help guide you from beginning to end. It will also consist of a month-by-month implementation schedule; plant species and seeding rate recommendations; instructions on how to deal with invasive plant species; and, perhaps most important of all – advice on how to manage your habitat once it is established.
Types of wildlife habitat
What kind of wildlife habitat are we talking about here? In short: All of it. Farm Bill Biologists can help you the landowner, create or improve wetlands, uplands, forests, river bottoms, pastures, field edges, and even backyard wildflower gardens. There’s room for wildlife habitat improvement on millions of privately owned acres in America. So, even if you’re not sure what you want or where to start, the first step is to contact a professional. There’s absolutely no obligation, and we’re happy to meet with landowners and discuss habitat year-round. Simply call or email your area Farm Bill Biologist – we’re here to help!
About the Author:
Zach Voyles is a Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist in Southeast Indiana with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Inc. Indiana’s 4 Farm Bill Biologists work in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide wildlife technical assistance to landowners interested in creating or enhancing wildlife habitat.