Conservation Programs for Landowners

Learn about a number of conservation programs available to farmers, ranchers and landowners to help support wildlife populations.

| January/February 2017

  • NRCS provides help for water protection and conservation.
    Photo by AKM Images/Willard Clay
  • A variety of native plants will provide food.
    Photo by Gerry Lemmo
  • A water source is necessary for attracting wildlife.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Waterfowl will flock to a well-kept pond.
    Photo by Gerry Lemmo

Dennis Owens had a good idea of what he wanted to do with the 235-acre farm in southern Virginia he bought 12 years ago, but he wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to accomplish those goals. A lifelong quail hunter, his plan was to convert the former dairy farm to a wildlife oasis — one brimming with bobwhites, deer, songbirds, and other wildlife. A dozen years later, he’s succeeded. Although quail populations fluctuate with nesting conditions, his farm now has birds where there were none before.

“I’ve got a lot more turkeys than I did, deer are abundant, and we’ve seen bears,” he says. “There’s just a lot more wildlife now than when I first bought the place.”

A helping hand

The 72-year-old retired business owner could have done it alone, but he enlisted the help of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose primary purpose is to help landowners conserve and protect soil, water, and wildlife. The NRCS administers a number of programs that not only offer technical assistance, but also financial assistance in the form of cost-sharing. As Owens learned, converting marginal land into high-quality wildlife habitat isn’t cheap.

“I probably could have figured it out and done it all on my own, but it was nice getting some technical assistance and financial help,” he says. 

It doesn’t matter if you own a sprawling ranch in Kansas, a 200-acre hobby farm in Virginia, or a small block of timber in Ohio. Virtually anyone who wants to turn their land into a safe haven for wildlife doesn’t have to do it alone.

The financial assistance allowed Owens to put even more resources into his efforts, which moved the process along a little faster and allowed him to do everything he needed to do. Although it can vary, the cost-share part of the NRCS conservation programs covers everything from seed and herbicide to tree plantings and prescribed burns. In many cases, landowners can be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of the cost for labor and materials.

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