2014 Farm Bill Field Guide

Partners Optimize Fish & Wildlife Benefits

Photo by Pheasants Forever.
Partners working with the NRCS and FSA can be the key to delivering fish and wildlife conservation through Farm Bill programs. Download this section.

Farm Bill conservation programs are most successful for wildlife where there are boots on the ground in the form of biological technical assistance capacity. However, since 1985, Farm Bill funding for on-the ground conservation projects has generally increased while NRCS technical assistance staffing, especially with biological or ecological specialties, has generally decreased. Local service centers typically have staff with primary expertise in agronomy, soils, or range management but often lack specific training in fish and wildlife conservation.

Achieving fish and wildlife habitat conservation is a multi-step process that includes marketing projects to landowners, understanding program requirements, assisting USDA with administrative paperwork, ranking projects, obligating dollars, designing conservation practices, and guiding implementation. Each step is critical, but each one can become a bottleneck if there is limited staff capacity with a strong foundation in wildlife management. 

In addition, many programs require the landowner to provide part of the cost of implementing practices. This can be difficult for many participants and further delay on-the-ground conservation achievements. In recent years, state fish and wildlife agencies, fish and wildlife conservation organizations, and migratory bird joint ventures have helped fill some of these gaps.