The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers in portions of 22 parishes to develop and enhance habitat for migrating birds. This opportunity is being offered through Louisiana NRCS' Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), an initiative Ducks Unlimited is partnering with NRCS to deliver.

Through the initiative, NRCS will work with agricultural producers to create or enhance shallow-water, mud-flat and moist-soil habitats to benefit a variety of migratory birds. MBHI projects provide food and critical habitat for bird populations, much-needed water during drought conditions, financial support for local economies by attracting hunters and birdwatchers and new opportunities to improve wildlife management.

"DU partnered with Louisiana NRCS to deliver the MBHI following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and we commend the changes they have included in this initiative and support the practices it offers to agricultural producers," said Jerry Holden, DU director of conservation programs. "Advancing this new initiative in the coastal zone of Louisiana is a natural fit for Ducks Unlimited's focus on ensuring sufficient migration and wintering habitat for waterfowl along the Gulf Coast."

Eligible areas for Louisiana's 2012 Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative include portions of the following parishes: Acadia, Allen, Assumption, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Vermilion.

"I encourage interested landowners to visit their local NRCS office as soon as possible," said Sarah Haymaker, NRCS acting state conservationist in Louisiana. "The application window for the first MBHI ranking pool ends May 18."

Funding for the 2012 MBHI will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for EQIP funding are accepted on a continuous basis throughout the year; however, to be considered in the first MBHI ranking pool, applications must be received by close of business on May 18. Interested producers should contact their local NRCS office or visit here for more information.