$862,000 Grant Announced for Landowners Wildlife Habitat Improvements

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Department of the Interior Secretary Gail Norton has announced that $862,000 will be available to Kentucky landowners this year who want to improve wildlife habitat and help conserve endangered species on private lands in the Commonwealth.

The $862,000 is Kentucky’s portion of $25.8 million set aside in President Bush’s Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) to provide funding in 40 states for various conservation projects on a cost-share basis through state fish and wildlife agencies. LIP projects require at least a 25 percent funding match to qualify for approval.

“We’re very fortunate that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has committed the matching funds for habitat projects in Kentucky, which means no state dollars have to be spent to get this highly beneficial work completed,” said Jon Gassett, wildlife division director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).

Landowners who participate in the program will be able to do important and sometimes critical work for wildlife and habitat without having to pay out of their own pocket. Using grant monies and matching funds from RMEF, the KDFWR will be able to provide the financial assistance and technical guidance from biologists to landowners to make improvements on their properties, and ultimately benefit all types of wildlife species in Kentucky. Landowners simply invest their time and follow a plan designed specifically to meet their needs, and the needs of species both plant and animal, on their property.

This program is aimed at not only recovering lost habitat and improving existing wildlife populations, but also at preventing and protecting at-risk species from becoming imperiled and being listed as threatened or endangered. It takes advantage of the proven success of public-private partnerships to conserve habitat and wildlife by giving those willing to do the work the financial ability and knowledge necessary to join together in a common goal.

Similar programs have affected change on thousands of acres in Kentucky in recent years, and this reauthorization of funds affirms a strong commitment from the federal government to continue making wildlife conservation a high priority. Kentucky has received a total of $2.3 million in the first two years of LIP, placing the Bluegrass State first in the southeastern United States, and seventh overall in state funding appropriations through this program.

The President’s 2005 budget includes $507.3 million for the Interior Department’s cooperative conservation programs, more than a 43 percent increase for these programs since 2001. The Cooperative Conservation Initiative has been increased 25 percent, and during it’s first year in 2003, funded 256 projects in more than 40 states and Puerto Rico.

Landowners interested in taking advantage of the Landowner Incentive Program in Kentucky should contact the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to get in touch with a private land’s biologist. He or she can familiarize you with numerous opportunities to improve habitat on your farm, and will help devise a management plan that incorporates best management practices for farming and wildlife alike.