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Thanks to the help of the Arkansas General Assembly and the Arkansas Legislative Council, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has launched a one-year pilot project to put more wildlife habitat on the ground with the help of landowners across the state. The Conservation Incentive Program offers landowners up to $10,000 of reimbursements on expenses related to qualifying conservation practices most in demand for the future of Arkansas’s wildlife habitat.
The program is similar to many cost-share conservation incentives provided through Farm Bill programs, but is targeted specifically at wildlife and fisheries needs in Arkansas on a state level. The $3.5 million initiative was developed thanks to the help of the 2023 General Assembly to put more conservation dollars in the hands of Arkansas landowners to reach new heights in private land habitat improvements.
“With roughly 10 percent of Arkansas in public ownership, we are limited in what we can accomplish on a landscape level on public lands,” AGFC Director Austin Booth said. “Even if we get everything we manage in picture-perfect condition, we’re still missing 90 percent of Arkansas. That’s where the Conservation Incentive Program comes in.”
The Conservation Incentive Program fosters habitat conservation through nine private-land management opportunities aimed at fish and wildlife and their associated habitats.
Michelle Furr, program coordinator for the agency’s Private Lands Habitat Division, said “Programs range from invasive species control focused on aquatic and terrestrial plants and feral hogs, to providing wetland habitat for wintering waterfowl. Forest management practices such as prescribed fire and wildlife stand improvements through thinning the forest canopy and allowing light to penetrate the forest floor also make up a large component of the program.
“The agency is also offering practices to improve water quality in streams and provide public fishing opportunities on privately controlled waters,” Furr said. “We know most landowners would do more to manage for wildlife if they had the financial means to do so, and this program strikes at the heart of that barrier. Couple this with our increased number of private lands biologists around the state, and we are gearing up to really hit another gear in habitat management in the state, walking side-by-side with our greatest group of conservation allies: fellow Arkansans. Our biologists across the agency are geared to help landowners formulate data-informed management plans for habitat on their property and guide them in finding the means to implement the practices.”
A complete list of practices (including videos) and how to apply for each incentive are available at www.agfc.com/education/conservation-incentive-program.
Once an application is submitted, it is reviewed by a biologist to verify the documentation provided meets program requirements. Reviews happen in the order received and are funded on a first-come, first-served basis. Funding for this program runs through December 31, 2024.
Each landowner can be eligible for up to $10,000 overall to implement one or more practices as outlined in approved management plans.