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USDA to invest in Working Lands for Wildlife program

BOULDER — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will make new investments in conservation programs, including the Working Lands for Wildlife program.

Robert Bonnie, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation, laid out the agency’s plans at the Western Governors Association annual meeting Tuesday in Boulder. 

The USDA will commit $500 million and leverage resources from other conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, to support the Working Lands for Wildlife framework. 

The investment comes from the Inflation Reduction Act and includes $250 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and $250 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program over the next five years. The agency is also increasing staffing of the wildlife program.

“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,” Bonnie said in a press statement. “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.”

“Migratory big game like elk are a challenge for many landowners,” said Erik Kalsta, a cattle and sheep rancher in the Big Hole Valley in Montana and Working Wild Challenge program manager for the Western Landowners Alliance. “It’s one that comes with the territory but can still be the difference between make or break for some ranches. I’m glad to see USDA expanding its most collaborative and helpful programs for sustaining big game habitat, and the additional USDA staff needed to implement them in a timely fashion.”

Source: BizWest