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NC Wildlife Stewardship

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great blue near water

Dance of the Great Blue Heron. Photo credit: Mary Lou Addor.

Across the United States, more than two-thirds of the land is privately owned providing critical fish and wildlife habitats. In North Carolina, private landowners are the majority landowner of the state. Private landowners often lead the way in the stewardship of these landscapes especially when populations of species can thrive and even increase, thus avoiding extensive and restrictive action when that species becomes at risk. Owners of private lands have contributed tremendously throughout the years to the conservation efforts of fish and wildlife species.

Wildlife and their habitat benefit landowners in many ways, from hunting deer or turkey on their property to enjoying bird watching or photographing wildlife. There are several organizations in North Carolina (and nationally) that can support private landowners in their quest to voluntarily support the conservation of fish and wildlife species or to receive incentives in support of these efforts. This section will introduce four organizations, the knowledge, technical support and assistance these organizations can provide, and where applicable, identification of cost-share assistance.

  • NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NC WRC)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
  • NC State Extension Wildlife (NC EX)

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Programs

  1. Wildlife Conservation Lands Program (WCLP)
    The Wildlife Conservation Lands Program (WCLP) of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission offers landowners a potential reduced property tax assessment in exchange for managing priority wildlife habitats or priority wildlife species. Landowners with at least 20 contiguous acres of priority habitat or land being utilized by priority species, and who are willing to conserve and maintain that habitat may be eligible. Access additional information by clicking the title of the program.
  2. Private Lands Program
    Through its Private Lands Program, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission is staffed with district assigned wildlife biologists who commonly work with private landowners to address wildlife issues such as: wildlife population management, habitat development and management, wildlife disease investigations, and human-wildlife conflicts.In addition, the Commission has Technical Assistance Biologists (TABs) who work  primarily with landowners to develop management plans for the Forest Stewardship Program in partnership with the  North Carolina Forest Service and other natural resource professionals. This is a comprehensive forest management plan that can include multiple resource management such as  timber production, soil and water quality improvements, recreational opportunities, and aesthetics, and enhancement of wildlife habitat as a significant component. Landowners with 10 or more acres of privately held forested land are eligible for stewardship plans.The Technical Assistance Biologists (TABs) are a major source of technical advice in North Carolina for private landowners and can serve as a primary liaison for integrating U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Bill programs into effective tools for improving land management. Access additional information by clicking the title of the program.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW)

A USDA sponsored program,Working Lands for Wildlife is collaborating with landowners to improve working farms and forests while enhancing specific wildlife habitat on working landscapes. Target species are used as barometers for success because their habitat needs are representative of healthy, functioning ecosystems where conservation efforts benefit a much broader suite of species.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to participants who voluntarily make improvements to their working lands while the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) provides participants with regulatory predictability for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when needed. This innovative approach empowers landowners with a means to make on-the-ground improvements and provides peace of mind that no matter the legal status of a species, they can keep their working lands working. An example of an east coast USDA Habitat Hero is Jim Hoover.

Two specific species that are part of the program in North Carolina:

  • The Northern Bobwhite, Grasslands, and Savannas project is operational in the southern portion of North Carolina.
  • State sponsored wildlife for North Carolina include the Eastern Hellbender.

For additional information about Working Lands for Wildlife reach out to your county NRCS agent.

US Fish & Wildlife Programs

  1. Partners for Fish and Wildlife
    Without the voluntary efforts of private property owners, land restoration would stop at refuge borders, leaving habitats dangerously fragmented and disconnected.
    All private landowners interested in restoring wildlife habitat on their land are eligible to participate in the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a program that offers technical and fiscal assistance. Participating landowners do not forfeit any property rights and are not required to allow public access. The program provides technical and financial assistance. Since 1987, more than 60,000 landowners have restored 7 million acres of habitat for wildlife.Priority goes to projects judged likely to provide habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species. Projects have a minimum duration of 10 years. In addition to private landowners, the agency partners with other federal agencies, state agencies and non-governmental organizations to complete projects on private lands.
    For additional information about the Partners for Wildlife Program, reach out to the North Carolina State Coordinator.
  2. Partners in Flight
    Partners in Flight is dedicated to keeping common birds common and helping species at risk through voluntary partnerships. The purpose of the model is to halt and reverse bird population declines before they are listed as threatened or endangered, a more cost effective and common sense approach for the future.
    Access the Spring 2022 Action BriefClick this link to connect with the Eastern Group.

NC State Extension Wildlife (NC EX)

  1. Extension Forestry Wildlife Resources
    The NC Extension Service at NC State has published a series of resources for those interested in learning about wildlife and wildlife management. From bats to  bobwhite quail to wild turkey and deer, there are a number of resources presented.
  2. Woodland Stewards  Webinar for Wildlife and Woodlands
    Managing wildlife is commonly ranked as a primary objective among landowners. The Woodland Stewards series introduces basic wildlife management principles,  concepts, and provides information on habitat requirements of various wildlife that occur across the region. Extension specialists introduce and narrate the online session.