The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is adding the northern bobwhite to Working Lands for Wildlife, the agency’s targeted, science-based effort to help producers restore and protect habitat for declining species on farms, ranches and working forests.
“Agriculture and wildlife both thrive together through landscape conservation,” said J.R. Flores, NRCS state conservationist in Missouri. “We’re working with farmers to make bobwhite-friendly improvements on working lands that will help the species and benefit farming operations.”
Two of the 11 new projects announced by NRCS Chief Jason Weller at a farm in New Florence focus on helping farmers en hance early successional habitat to aid in the bobwhite’s recovery. Farmers in Missouri are part of the project that targets grasslands, where NRCS is working with producers to replace non-native grasses with native grasses, forbs and legumes that benefit bobwhite and other wildlife, while creating alternative healthy grazing options for livestock. Other states include in Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky.
When habitat is restored for the bobwhite, many other species benefit, including turkeys, deer, rabbits and many different songbirds. NRCS uses the bobwhite and other wildlife as indicators of the health of the ecosystem at-large.
With more than two-thirds of the continental United States under private ownership, wildlife depend heavily on working lands for habitat and food. Projects focus on declining species that have needs compatible with agricultural practices and rural land management and that can benefit from conservation on private lands.
So far, WLFW has helped producers restore 6.7 million acres of habitat for seven target species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined last year that Endangered Species Act protections were not necessary for these species largely because of the voluntary conservation efforts on working lands.
“The future of wildlife, agriculture and rural ways of life depend on our collective ability to transfer our Working Lands for Wildlife model to more species and working landscapes,” Flores said.
Through WLFW, NRCS strategically invests where conservation returns are highest and measures how wildlife respond to management activities to refine conservation efforts. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help producers adopt a variety of conservation practices on their land. NRCS staff help producers with a conservation plan and provide funding to cover part of the costs for adopting the practices.
These practices are designed to benefit both the species and the agricultural operation.