ADA — The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces the opportunity to apply for assistance through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) for the fiscal year 2007. According to Ken Swift, NRCS district conservationist in Pontotoc County, WHIP provides cost-share and technical assistance for development and/or improvement of wildlife habitat on private lands. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) technicians and biologists will continue to evaluate and rank eligible applications for WHIP according to the updated cooperative agreement between the two agencies.

All privately-owned rural lands are eligible for participation in WHIP. Applicants must have their farm records established and an adjusted gross income (AGI) certification in place with the Farm Services Agency (FSA). In addition, the applicant must be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetlands conservation provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985. More than $750,000 were obligated in 2006 providing wildlife benefits covering more than 25,00 acres through 47 landowner agreements. Conservation practices applied this past year include such things as removing invasive brush and non-beneficial weedy plants degrading native grasslands. Also, livestock grazing management practices such as ponds, wells and tanks, fencing and vegetative plantings that established or enhanced cover and food for wildlife. Conservation buffers were also established to improve water quality in streams and provide corridors for wildlife.

Applications will be taken on a continuos sign-up basis and high priority applications, based on specific statewide ranking criteria, will be selected for funding from four regional evaluation pools. Local NRCS field offices will begin accepting applications immediately and previous applications will be promoted for consideration if the applicant desires. Only applications received by Nov. 15, 2006, will be ranked and considered during this initial application ranking selection period. Applications after that date will continue to be evaluated and maintained for possible future founding as workload permits. Successful applicants will be notified after March 15, 2007, for eventual contract development until the available funds are obligated. All successful applicants will be required to develop, implement and maintain a Wildlife Habitat Development Plan during their individual WHIP contract period. For details about the WHIP program or to make an application, contact the local NRCS or conservation district office at 1328 Cradduck Rd. in Ada.

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