The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) provides cost-share incentives for the development, enhancement, and restoration of habitat for both game and nongame wildlife species, on all land uses. See USDA NRCS WHIP page for current updates.
How WHIP Works
Landowners agree to prepare and implement a wildlife habitat development plan. Through a cooperative effort, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Florida Freshwater Fish and Game Commission provide technical assistance in the planning and application phases of eligible practices. Also, if the landowner agrees, private, nonprofit organizations may provide assistance or additional funding to help complete the project.
Under the WHIP agreement, the landowner continues to control access to the land. However, the NRCS or its agent must have access to monitor the effectiveness of the practices during the agreement period.
The NRCS will help participants prepare a wildlife habitat development plan in consultation with the local conservation district. The plan will describe the landowner's goals for improving wildlife habitat, include a list of practices and a schedule for installing them, and details the steps necessary to maintain the habitat for the duration of the agreement. This plan may or may not be a part of a larger conservation plan that addresses other resource needs such as water quality or prevention of soil erosion.
The USDA and the participant will enter into a cost-share agreement for wildlife habitat development. The agreement will generally last from 5 to 10 years from the date the agreement is signed. Under this agreement:
- the landowner agrees to install and maintain the WHIP practices and allow the NRCS or its agent access to monitor the effectiveness of the practices
- The USDA agrees to provide technical assistance and pay up to 75% of the cost of installing the wildlife habitat practices
Cost-share payments may be used to establish new practices or replace practices that fail beyond the landowner's control. WHIP funds cannot be used for mitigation or on land designated as converted wetland.
Cost-share incentives vary from 75% of the landowner's costs, up to a maximum total cost-share of $10,000 per contract per fiscal year.
Under the 2002 Farm Bill, 15% of annual WHIP funds will be provided as increased cost-share payments to producers to protect and restore essential plant and animal habitat using agreements with a duration of at least 15 years.
The WHIP may be implemented in cooperation with other Federal, State, or local agencies, conservation districts, or private conservation groups. State priorities are developed through a locally led process that identifies wildlife resource needs and finalized in consultation with the State Technical Committee.
Eligibility and Contacts
Private lands, tribal lands, and state and county lands are all eligible for the program. The following are not eligible for the WHIP:
- Federal land
- land currently enrolled in the Water Bank Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, or similar programs
- land subject to an Emergency Watershed Protection Program floodplain easement
- land where USDA determines impacts from on or offsite conditions make the success of habitat improvement unlikely.
To qualify for the WHIP in Florida, proposed treatment areas must be at least 20 acres in size. There are no acreage limits on total ownerships for eligibility.