Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new initiative to protect sage grouse population and habitat in 11 western states using two popular U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs-Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP).
"USDA will take bold steps to ensure the enhancement and preservation of sage grouse habitat and the sustainability of working ranches and farms in the western United States," Vilsack said.
USDA will use up to $16 million through EQIP and WHIP in the 11 states this fiscal year to provide financial assistance to producers to reduce threats to the birds such as disease and invasive species and improve sage grouse habitat. Producers can sign up through April 23 to participate in the first round of rankings for this initiative. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) administers EQIP and WHIP. Funding enhances the opportunity for USDA to strengthen its conservation commitment with state agencies responsible for managing sage grouse populations. USDA will also work with the Department of Interior to provide certainty to landowners who enroll in NRCS programs to benefit sage grouse. This will protect landowners from increased regulation should the bird be listed under the Endangered Species Act in the future.
For additional information about EQIP, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip and for WHIP, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/whip.