The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has issued its final rule for the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), a voluntary conservation program reauthorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 to develop and improve fish and wildlife habitat on agricultural land, non-industrial private forest land, and Indian tribal land.

The final WHIP rule adds to the program a new national priority for the restoration and enhancement of wildlife habitat that focuses on filling in areas with continuous habitat for migrating species. Other rule changes include clarifying that pivot corners and irregular areas are eligible habitat; increasing to 25 percent the proportion of annual funds available for long-term agreements; providing the Secretary of Agriculture discretionary authority to address state, regional, and national conservation priorities; and establishing a $50,000 annual payment limit per person or legal entity.

Since the program's 1997 inception, more than 37,000 WHIP agreements have been established, resulting in habitat improvements on approximately 6.5 million acres nationwide, according to NRCS.