As we head into fall and hunting season, I tend to think about the wildlife that abounds in northeast Ohio, yet we must continue to think to the future to create more areas to assist with wildlife habitats.
First, a big thank you to all of the farmers and landowners who allow hunters access to help keep our deer population in check.
Serving on the board of the Trumbull County MetroParks, we have been working the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division on setting up official hunting areas in our preserves not yet open to the public. The Soil and Water Conservation District already has property in Hubbard Township that allows hunting by permission in an urbanized area of our county.
If you are interested in getting technical and financial help to establish wildlife habitat on your land, look beyond the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs with wildlife in the name.
Why? According to Dee Waters, our County Conservationist and local employee of the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, there are many USDA programs which have wildlife habitat as a goal. Some offer more financial incentives than the main Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and you may be able to get into these programs right away.
"WHIP is a good program, but landowners who only look to it for habitat help are making a mistake," says Pete Heard of the NRCS, who is director for the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Management Institute.
The Wetland Reserve Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Grassland Reserve Program also offer excellent opportunities for habitat help, he said.
The WRP and CRP offer land rental payments as well as substantial cost share for installing practices. And the restored wetlands and surrounding grasses, trees and shrubs planted as part of a restored wetland offer the best variety of habitat you can find for wildlife.
The same goes for the grasses and trees in whole field CRP or those along streams as part of a conservation buffer in the continuous signup of CRP.
Then, too, habitat can be created with the EQIP program, even though the primary goal of an EQIP contract may be to improve water quality or reduce erosion.
For more information, stop at our SWCD office at 520 W. Main St., Cortland, to see Dee Waters, or visit the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Management Institute's website at www.whmi.nrcs.usda.gov or the NRCS home web site or www.nrcs.usda.gov
Mike Wilson is the Executive Director of the Trumbull Soil and Water Conservation District and is an associate member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau.