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Md. agency offers farmers, schools money to build habitats

December 21, 2004

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland and the District of Columbia have received $248,600 from the 2002 Farm Bill to restore wildlife habitat through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, a Maryland official said.

Landowners interested in applying for funding through WHIP should immediately contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service or Soil Conservation District office in USDA Service Centers, said David Doss, state conservationist.

Applications will be ranked to determine which offer the most wildlife habitat benefits. The deadline to apply is Jan. 28, 2005.

WHIP is a voluntary conservation program providing technical and financial help to landowners and managers to restore upland, wetland and riparian habitat areas. The program offers cost-share agreements that usually range from five to 10 years.

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The state will help identify high priority wildlife resource needs and conservation practices eligible for aid.

Private and public schools are encouraged to apply for WHIP money to create wildlife habitat areas and stream buffers on school grounds, said Anne Lynn, NRCS Maryland state biologist.

"Conservation practices installed through WHIP provide schools with an excellent resource for developing outdoor classrooms where wildlife can be studied," Lynn said.

To qualify, the application must consist of at least an acre of eligible wildlife habitat improvement practices, or at least $300 of WHIP cost-share assistance. The requirements may be waived for outdoor classroom projects.

Lands already enrolled in other USDA programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and the Wetlands Reserve Program are not eligible for WHIP.

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