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Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program Funding Available

By Timothy Dunne
NRCS Resource Conservationist
November, 2004

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has funding available for the popular Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). Applications for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) will be accepted by NRCS Service Centers at any time during the year. The first application period for fiscal year 2005 closes December 17, 2004. Applications received after that date will be held until the next round of funding.

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to landowners to create, enhance or maintain wildlife habitat on their lands. New Jersey is more than 75% private land, and WHIP targets privately held lands including farms, gun club lands and other private open space. WHIP funding is also available to any non-Federal lands such as municipal, county and state lands.

One private land success story is the WHIP project at the Warren County Rod & Gun Club near Asbury, NJ. In 2002 the club enrolled their land in WHIP to improve wildlife habitat for small game in the rolling hills of Warren County along the Musconetcong River. Since that time the club has installed 30'-75' wide field borders of native grasses along most of the farm's corn fields. The field borders provide important winter cover and spring nesting sites for local wildlife.

Native grasses beside corn
Field borders of native grasses provide nesting sites and winter cover for farm wildlife as well as water quality protection to streams from potential agricultural runoff.

The club has also removed acres of invasive exotic vegetation such as multiflora rose and tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus). NRCS has provided technical assistance to the club as well as 75% of the costs of the project. The club's labor was used to provide the remaining 25% match, so no real out-of-pocket expenses were incurred by the club. The pheasant hunters at the semi-wild club report improved cover and better hunting opportunities since the project began. The field borders also provide nesting habitat for several species of threatened or endangered grassland birds as well as water quality protection for the Musconetcong River.

Grassland habitat
Diverse grassland habitat will be maintained at the Robert J. Stahl Natural Area in Bedminster Township, Somerset County, through a 5-year WHIP agreement.
Bedminster Township in Somerset County enrolled the 183 acre Robert J. Stahl Natural Area in WHIP in 2004. The township had a plan prepared in the late 1990s by an environmental consultant that outlined mowing and brush-hogging to be accomplished on this important grassland bird nesting area. The WHIP agreement calls for township public works crews to mow and brush-hog several fields each year.

The site will have 45 acres of diverse grassland habitats throughout the five-year WHIP agreement. NRCS will provide 75% of the costs of mowing to the township. Grasshopper sparrows, bobolinks and northern harriers will benefit as well as the many birders, hikers and horseback riders that use the area.

WHIP assistance in New Jersey is targeted to specific habitat restoration areas. In order to be eligible for WHIP funding in New Jersey a project must either be:

  • located in Lower Cape May (a priority wildlife habitat area)
  • on lands providing habitat for the federally threatened bog turtle
  • dedicated to early successional wildlife habitat, such as grassland restoration
  • dedicated to riparian wildlife habitat
  • for invasive exotic vegetation control, or
  • a school-site habitat development project for environmental education
WHIP applications are ranked according to their environmental benefits and cost effectiveness. The highest-ranking projects are provided funding to implement a 5- to10-year wildlife habitat development plan. Local NRCS conservationists provide planning assistance, with help from NRCS biologists as well as biologists from partner organizations, such as the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The wildlife habitat development plan will describe the landowner's wildlife habitat goals, list the habitat improvement practices desired, and include a schedule of implementation.

Landowners are encouraged to sign up now but applications will be accepted all year. To sign up for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program or for more information on WHIP priority categories and benefits, landowners can contact any USDA Service Center. USDA Service Centers and office locations are listed in the telephone book under the US Department of Agriculture and can also be found on the NRCS-NJ website at The application form is available at that website, as well, and can be downloaded from

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: November 15, 2004