The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced a statewide effort focused on creating and improving upland bird habitat in Ohio. Private landowners and producers can apply for funding through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for EQIP are taken on a continuous basis, however, interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local NRCS service center prior to the anticipated Feb. 16, 2024 sign-up deadline for fiscal year 2024 funding.
“Private landowner involvement plays such an important role in preserving these species loved by hunters and other recreationalists,” said John Wilson, Ohio NRCS State Conservationist. “With the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, we can help landowners place conservation practices on their land that will make a measurable difference in upland gamebird habitats.”
With upland bird populations declining, diverse quality habitats are critical, making private landowner actions key in creating and maintaining complex habitat requirements to help the birds thrive. Habitat types including woody edges, native grass field borders, and shrubby cover provide nesting, brood-rearing and loafing areas to bolster upland bird populations. Habitat value depends on the quality, quantity, and interspersion of food, water, cover, and living space. With the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, landowners can place multiple conservation practices on the landscape to address these needs.
“A renewed focus on creating and improving nesting and brood-rearing habitat will provide a much-needed boost for Ohio’s upland game bird populations,” said Kendra Wecker, Division of Wildlife Chief.
NWTF also supports the effort and is prepared to lend a hand implementing the program.
“The NWTF works hand in hand with our state, federal, and non-governmental organization partners, as well as private landowners to conserve wild turkeys their habitats and preserve our hunting heritage,” said Ryan Boyer, NWTF District Biologist. “Thanks to these robust partnerships, we can collectively promote healthy and sustainable wild turkey and upland bird populations through active management and provide private landowners with the resources they need to confidently and successfully manage their lands with support through EQIP.”
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever also fully support the conservation program’s goals in creating and protecting upland game bird habitat.
“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are committed to improving upland habitat in Ohio and are excited about this opportunity landowners have to use EQIP funding for their next project! Ohio’s upland bird populations depend on private lands, and programs like EQIP are a great way to deliver quality habitat where it is needed. In partnership with NRCS, ODNR Division of Wildlife, and other organizations, we look forward to helping implement this program and assisting private landowners to improve the future of upland birds in Ohio,” said Cody Grasser, Pheasants and Quail Forever State Coordinator.
NRCS conservation practices including wildlife habitat plantings, early successional habitat development and invasive species removal are among the key practices available to promote important wildlife habitat. Landowners who implement these practices will not only promote upland bird habitat, but further enhance their property value to other species such as songbirds, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, and pollinators.
Landowners interested in EQIP funding to improve upland bird habitat should reach out to their local Ohio USDA service center or visit the Ohio NRCS EQIP webpage for more details. For more information on technical assistance, contact Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife management consultant or Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist to learn more.