Better Farm Partners with USDA to Protect Golden-Winged Warblers

Female golden-winged warbler photo from Lake Forest College. Male golden-winged warbler in above photo from West Virgina University.

Female golden-winged warbler photo from Lake Forest College. Male golden-winged warbler in above photo from West Virgina University.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has selected Better Farm as a host site for conservation efforts to restore habitat that will encourage an increased golden-winged warbler population.

Nearly two-thirds of all species federally listed as threatened or endangered exist on private lands.  Conservation efforts on these lands generate outdoor recreation and economic activity that result in sustained growth for local communities and landowners.  

Farm Bill legislation gives the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) authority to provide financial assistance payments through EQIP to eligible producers, to help implement approved conservation practices on eligible land. Farm Bill legislation also combined  the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) into EQIP and incorporated priorities to assure that EQIP will support wildlife-related projects.

Conservation efforts include:

  • Restoring populations of declining wildlife species.
  • Providing farmers, ranchers, and forest managers with regulatory certainty that conservation investments they make today help sustain their operations over the long term.
  • Strengthening and sustaining rural economies by restoring and protecting the productive capacity of working lands.

The vast forested lands, grasslands and forb-rich landscape of the Appalachian Mountains was once considered a population stronghold for the golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera). Today, however, the population is at-risk for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The most common explanations point to the loss and degradation of early successional habitat. Golden-winged warblers and many other species depend upon shrubby, idle vegetated areas like forest clear-cuts, alder swamps, utility rights-of way and other similar habitats for breeding. Several factors have contributed to the decline of these habitats including direct losses to development, re-forestation of farmland, fire suppression, and changes in agricultural and forestry practices.

Better Farm has been selected as a premium site to restore golden-winged warbler habitat because so much of the property here includes "feathered" landscape of shrubs and vegetation between forest and field. This is primo stomping ground for golden-winged warblers. We filed paperwork to participate in EQIP several months ago and recently received the news that our site has been selected. Here's a map showing Better Farm's property, and the area that will be managed:

We will begin the work of improving golden-winged warbler habitat later on in 2015; stay tuned for our progress!

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.