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USDA Publishes Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) Final Rule

November 23, 2010

On Tuesday, November 23, NRCS published its final rule for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) in the Federal Register.  You can download a pdf version of the final rule here.

USDA published its interim final rule (IFR) for public comment on January 16, 2009.  It subsequently published two amendments to address a number of issues, including payment limitations, climate change and carbon sequestration, and the definition of agricultural land.  After reviewing public comments, USDA made a number of substantive changes to the rule.

Clarification of the role and authority of Technical Service Providers (TSPs)

In order to clarify that third party TSPs can assist with program implementation, NRCS added the following language: “Technical services provided by qualified personnel not affiliated with USDA may include, but is not limited to, conservation planning; conservation practice survey, layout, design, installation, and certification; and related technical assistance services as defined in 7 CFR part 652.’”

Definition of Agricultural Land

Both the July 15, 2009 amendment to the IFR and the final rule broadened the definition of agricultural land, as defined in the IFR, to “cropland, grassland, rangeland, pastureland, and other land determined by NRCS to be suitable for fish and wildlife habitat development on which agricultural and forest-related products or livestock are or have the potential to be produced. Agricultural lands may include cropped woodland, wetlands, waterways, streams, incidental areas included in the agricultural operation, and other types of land used for or have the potential to be used for production.”

Five National Priorities for WHIP

The IFR outlined four National Priorities for WHIP.  The final rule adds an additional National Priority to the list.  WHIP’s fifth National Priority will be to “protect, restore, develop, or enhance important migration and other movement corridors for wildlife.”

Climate change

Lastly, the final rule explicitly acknowledges that WHIP may help to address climate change.  According to the rule, “some practices can serve multiple purposes, such as riparian migration corridors, which not only sequester carbon and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat, but also help species adapt to climate change[…]  Additional ranking points may be assigned to practices that offer multiple benefits in WHIP’s Application Evaluation and Ranking Tool.”

Visit the NRCS program page to learn more about the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

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