DENVER — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plan to invest at least $500
million over the next five years in wildlife conservation across the country by partnering with farmers, ranchers, Indigenous communities, and private forest owners will improve biodiversity, restore degraded landscapes, increase climate resilience, and boost rural economies. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) will each contribute $250 million in funding that will be administered by the USDA’s Working Lands for Wildlife program, the successful voluntary conservation effort that has partnered with nearly 9,000 farmers and ranchers to conserve 12 million acres of wildlife habitat since 2010.
“Working lands are vital for wildlife habitat, clean water, and mitigating climate change. The Working Lands for Wildlife Program is unparalleled as a model for voluntary conservation collaboration with farmers and ranchers to improve the long-term health of wildlife, people, and the lands and waters they share,” said Collin O’Mara
, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This historic investment in and expansion of the Working Lands for Wildlife program is a game changer and will safeguard a broad array of species, from elk in the West to song birds in the East and everything in-between.”
Part of the new investment will immediately benefit USDA’s efforts to conserve big game migration habitat by adding $40 million to a pilot program with Wyoming and expanding it to Idaho and Montana. It will also invest an additional $14 million dedicated to the conservation of bobwhite quail in 25 central and eastern states.
The USDA will also develop four new strategies under the Working Lands for Wildlife program that will be announced next year to:
• Conserve and maintain western migratory pathways across landscapes
• Restore forest health and wildlife habitats in eastern deciduous forests
• Restore eastern rivers and wetlands to support connectivity in watersheds with at-risk species
• Establish and maintain southeastern native pines with cultural, ecological, and economic value