Farmers and landowners in selected counties in Arkansas, Maine and Mississippi can begin sign up for a new Natural Resources Conservation Service program aimed at improving forested wildlife habitat for threatened and endangered species.

The Healthy Forests Reserve Program or HRFP will be conducted to promote the recovery of specific endangered species in the three states. Those include the red cockaded woodpecker in the Lower Ouachita River Flatwood region of Arkansas, the Canada Lynx in the northern boreal forest of Maine, and the gopher tortoise and black pine snake in the longleaf pine ecosystem along the gulf coast of Mississippi.

“This is an exciting new conservation program that will restore and enhance forest ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species in private forestlands,” said NRCS Chief Bruce Knight.

He said the sign up, which began June 19, will continue through July 7 at local NRCS field offices in the selected counties in Maine, Mississippi and Arkansas. Applications will be prioritized according to ranking criteria.

To be eligible, interested landowners must develop a forest management restoration plan that includes the implementation of conservation practices necessary to restore and enhance forested habitat for selected species listed as either a threatened or endangered, a candidate species for listing, or a state species of special concern.

NRCS will provide technical assistance to help participants develop and implement their HFRP forest management restoration plans.

Three enrollment options will be available to eligible landowners: a 10-year cost-share agreement where the landowner may receive 50 percent of the average cost of approved conservation practices, a 30-year easement where the landowner may receive 75 percent of the easement value of the enrolled land plus 75 percent of the average cost of approved habitat conservation practices, or an easement of not more than 99 years where the landowner may receive up to 100 percent of the easement value of the enrolled land plus up to100 percent of the average cost of approved habitat conservation practices.

For additional information on HFRP contact your local USDA Service Center or visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/HFRP/ProgInfo/HFRPProgramInfo.html.