Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced that an additional $600,000 in Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) funds will help landowners in 21 states improve fish and wildlife habitat on their private lands. This is in addition to the $33.3 million in fiscal year 2004 WHIP funding announced early this year.

“This program focuses on helping landowners voluntarily develop or enhance fish and wildlife habitat on their land,” Veneman said. “It offers farmers and ranchers an opportunity to meet their production needs in ways that are compatible with providing fish and wildlife habitat.”

States receiving the additional funds are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

Through WHIP, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides financial and technical assistance to interested landowners and others to develop upland, wetland, riparian and aquatic habitat areas on their property. The program provides full flexibility to landowners, offering 5- to 10-year agreements and, with exception, one-year and 15-year or longer agreements.

WHIP can help reverse the trend in the decline of available fish and wildlife habitat and contribute to the recovery of many of the nation's species that currently are at risk. For example:

In Ventura County, Calif., a riparian/wetland restoration area is a major corridor to the ocean and is home to the endangered willow flycatcher and Least Bell's Vireo. The funds will be used to restore the area to native plants, including willows and other native forbs and grasses, that will enhance its use by wildlife.