DAVIS, Calif., Dec. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available about $50 million nationwide this year in financial assistance to partner with agricultural producers who want to restore and protect habitat for seven focus species, including two California species: greater sage-grouse and the southwestern willow flycatcher. Conservation efforts for these species are part of Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), an innovative partnership that supports struggling landscapes and strengthens agricultural operations.
This year in California, according to State Conservationist Carlos Suarez, more than $2 million is available to eligible ranchers and farmers willing to implement habitat restoration for the sage grouse, the umbrella species of the sagebrush landscape. This current funding is in addition to more than $4.5 million available to California farmers and ranchers for sage grouse habitat protection on private lands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
With the support of conservation partners and ranchers, NRCS launched the Sage Grouse Initiative in 2010. Those efforts became the model for WLFW, which began two years later. Conservation efforts to restore and protect sagebrush habitat led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine in September that protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were not warranted.
NRCS is also investing about $535,000 in California on habitat restoration for the southwestern willow flycatcher, a small Neotropical migratory bird that lives in riparian areas and wetlands in the arid Southwest. The southwestern willow flycatcher is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
"In the last three years, NRCS has invested $1.9 million to enhance 1,046 acres of flycatcher nesting habitat in California coastal riparian areas in San Diego, Ventura, and Orange counties," said NRCS biologist Shea O'Keefe. "We'd like to work on areas adjacent to existing projects and hope to expand the program into San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles counties."
Technical and financial assistance is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, ACEP and the Conservation Stewardship Program. NRCS financial assistance covers part of the cost to implement conservation practices. Interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local USDA service center.
Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has worked in partnership with private landowners and a variety of local, state and federal conservation partners to deliver conservation based on specific, local needs.
SOURCE USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service