US Department of Agriculture Unveils Historic $500 Million Investment in Wildlife Conservation

New Working Lands frameworks announced with plans to take advantage of the Conservation Reserve Program

Today, USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) would invest $500 million in Working Lands for Wildlife initiatives over the next five years. The historic investment will increase conservation assistance for farmers, ranchers, private forest owners, and tribes within key geographies and species while taking advantage of the Conservation Reserve Program.

“What an incredible commitment to wildlife on a significant scale,” said Ron Leathers, director of conservation for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “This investment has the potential to reverse population declines in some of our most threatened grassland and upland species, including bobwhite quail, sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken. In addition, many other game and non-game species will greatly benefit from this announcement, along with improved water quality and soil health. Thank you USDA and its leaders for your dedication to America’s working lands, growers, wildlife, and rural communities.”

The announcement sets the wheels in motion to update existing frameworks for conservation action in the Northern Bobwhite, Grasslands and Savannas, Sagebrush Biome, and Great Plains Grasslands Biome to newly integrate the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program. USDA will also work with partners to develop four new frameworks to be released in 2024-25:

Western Migratory Big Game: A strategy to keep working lands large and connected in the West to help sustain some of our nation’s iconic wildlife migrations.

Eastern Deciduous Forest: A strategy for achieving forest health and habitat restoration that benefits declining wildlife that depends on young forests.

Eastern Aquatic Connectivity: A strategy to guide river and wetland restoration to support habitat connectivity in watersheds with important species at risk.

Southeast Pine Ecosystems: A strategy to establish and maintain native pines with cultural, ecological and economic value.

“When you find a conservation approach that works, double down, and that’s what we’re doing with Working Lands for Wildlife,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Agricultural Production and Conservation, who briefed state leaders today at the Western Governors Association meeting in Boulder, Colorado. “America’s farmers, ranchers, forest owners, and tribes steward most of our nation’s wildlife habitat, and our work with them has produced tremendous benefits for grouse, longleaf pine, and other species and ecosystems. . Working Lands for Wildlife is ready to take it to the next level, and today’s incorporation of the Conservation Reserves Program into his vision is a huge step forward. We commit to further developing the policy, funding and human capacity to achieve large-scale working land conservation in the future.”

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever recognize the enormous impacts these investments will have for grassland species such as pheasants, quail, grouse, lesser prairie fowl, monarch butterflies, and native bees, all declining species with direct links to grassland loss. The organization views Working Lands for Wildlife as the primary focus for habitat conservation efforts that benefit people and wildlife for the future.

In a shared partnership with USDA and many other national, state, and local partners, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have one of the largest private land biologist task forces in the United States to assist landowners with implementation. of voluntary conservation programs. To learn more about the financial and environmental benefits of Working Lands for Wildlife, visit your nearest USDA Service Center or contact a Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever biologist for enrollment opportunities.

About pheasants forever

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever make up the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. This community of more than 400,000 members, supporters, and partners is dedicated to protecting our highlands through habitat improvement, public access, education, and advocacy. A network of 754 local chapters spread across North America determine how 100 percent of their locally raised funds are spent—the only national conservation organization to operate through this grassroots structure. Since its inception in 1982, the organization has dedicated more than $1 billion to 575,000 habitat projects benefiting 24 million acres.