The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Wildlife Division today announced a new open application period for landowners interested in applying for a habitat management grant through the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP). The Landowner Incentive Program provides technical advice and cost assistance to private landowners for habitat management that will result in the protection, restoration, reclamation, enhancement, and maintenance of habitats that support fish, wildlife, and plants considered at risk. This program has been made possible through grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which recognized the need to help states with the stewardship of their at-risk species.
"The biggest threat to plants and animals is loss of habitat," said Rick Jacobson, Director of the DEP Wildlife Division. "With at least 90% of Connecticut lands under private ownership, landowners play a vital role in conserving habitat for rare species."
Because funding is limited, grants are awarded through a competitive process. Landowners, including individuals, land trusts, conservation organizations, landowner associations, corporations and sportsmenís clubs are encouraged to propose projects that provide maximum benefit to species at risk. LIP can provide up to 75% of the cost of a project, but a minimum 25% non-federal match is required. Landowners or partnering organizations can provide the match through a variety of services, such as brush mowing, invasive plant control, bird monitoring, educational outreach, or actual dollars. The LIP application can be downloaded from the DEP website at www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife. Applications must be submitted by the deadline of May 15, 2011.
Established ranking criteria ensure that funds will be distributed with maximum benefit to Connecticut's at-risk plants and wildlife. Some of the most important ranking criteria include presence of and benefit to at-risk species, presence and value of priority habitats, presence and integrity of imperiled natural communities, and total acreage of property and project. Lists of at-risk plants and animals, as well as descriptions of imperiled natural communities, are available on the LIP web page at www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife.
Over 150 applications were received during the first two application periods held in 2005 and 2006. To date, LIP support has been awarded to 37 projects, 27 of which have been completed and 10 that are underway or close to initiation.
Projects have included invasive plant control and tidal marsh restoration in Old Saybrook, Lyme, New Haven, and Westport. Tidal marshes dominated by a variety of native plants are vital to supporting many species at risk, including saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, seaside sparrow, green heron, northern harrier, and blue crab. Current on-going projects include controlling common reed in freshwater wetland systems, conserving state-listed plants, and enhancing diverse wetland habitat. Other projects have helped create, restore, and manage early successional habitats, such as young forests, reverting fields, thickets, shrublands, meadows, and grasslands. These habitats have been declining throughout Connecticut, along with the species that depend on them. Forest openings were created or expanded by using heavy equipment on fish and game club properties in Marlborough, Newtown, and Norfolk; on Audubon property in Southbury; and on Nature Conservancy property in Haddam.
More information on the Landowner Incentive Program can be obtained by contacting Judy Wilson, Private Lands Program Coordinator for the DEP Wildlife Division, at the CT DEP Eastern District Headquarters, 209 Hebron Road, Marlborough, CT 06447 (firstname.lastname@example.org; 860-295-9523) or by visiting the LIP web page at www.ct.gov/deep/wildlife.