Bonnie announces $500M in wildlife conservation spending

Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie today announced that USDA “will expand its work on wildlife conservation by investing at least $500 million over the next five years and by leveraging all available conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, through its Working Lands for Wildlife effort.”

In a briefing at the Western Governors Association meeting in Boulder, Colo., Bonnie said, “These commitments, which align with President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, will ramp up the conservation assistance for farmers, ranchers, private forest owners and tribes with a focus on working lands in key geographies across the country as well as hiring for key conservation positions.”

“The funding will help deliver a series of cohesive Frameworks for Conservation Action, which establish a common vision across the partnership of public and private interests and goals for delivering conservation resources in a given ecosystem, combining cutting-edge science with local knowledge.”

The new funding includes $250 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and $250 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. 

“When you find a conservation approach that works, double down — and that’s what we’re doing with Working Lands for Wildlife,” Bonnie said in a news release.

“America’s farmers, ranchers, forest owners and tribes steward the majority of our nation’s wildlife habitat, and our work with them has yielded enormous gains for sage grouse, longleaf pine, and other species and ecosystems. Working Lands for Wildlife is ready to go to the next level, and today’s incorporation of the Conservation Reserve Program into its vision is a major leap forward.

“We pledge to keep building the policy, funding, and human capacity to deliver large-scale, working-lands conservation well into the future.”  

Bonnie said the funding will help conserve big game habitat and conservation of bobwhite quail and associated species in the grasslands and savannas of the central and eastern United States.

Additionally, Inflation Reduction Act funding will also build outcomes for northern bobwhite recovery as over 3.5 million acres will help mitigate greenhouse gases.

National Association of Conservation Districts President Kim LaFleur, said, “NACD is pleased that NRCS is expanding WLFW frameworks for conservation action and dedicating resources over the next five years.”

“This strategy will provide producers and land stewards in critical biomes across the country the opportunity to voluntarily implement conservation that enhances wildlife habitats. NACD and conservation districts look forward to working closely with USDA and other partners to advance landscape scale conservation.”

Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said, “Working lands are vital for wildlife habitat, clean water, and mitigating climate change. The Working Lands for Wildlife Program is unparalleled as a model for voluntary conservation collaboration with farmers and ranchers to improve the long-term health of wildlife, people, and the lands and waters they share.”

“This historic investment in and expansion of the Working Lands for Wildlife program is a game changer and will safeguard a broad array of species, from elk in the West to song birds in the East and everything in-between,” O’Mara said.

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