Help available for habitat development

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – The Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers in portions of 22 parishes who wish to develop and enhance habitat for migrating birds.
This opportunity is being offered through NRCS Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative. Through MBHI, 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, water during drought, support for local economies by attracting hunters and bird watchers and new opportunities to improve wildlife management.
John Boatman, district conservationist for NRCS, said the central focus of the initiative is to improve shoreline bird and migratory waterfowl habitats in general, but particularly for the native species of mottled duck. The program was popular during and immediately after the BP Oil Spill in 2010.
Funding for the 2013 MBHI is provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
“This whole program extends back to after the oil spill, when there was a fear that the oil would get up into some of the marshes, which would interfere with the nesting habitats of migratory water fowl. So the program started of back in 2010, but it was only for a smaller portion of Louisiana,” said Boatman.
The program is a cost-share initiative.
“If they’re eligible and there’s funding available, we enter into a contract with them. We provide cost-share money. We don’t pay for the whole practice. Whatever the conservation practices that they’ve installed to help improve the habitat, we pay part of the cost of it, which could vary from 50 to 75 percent,” said Boatman.
Boatman said he has no pariticipants thus far but hopes to stimulate more interest in the coming months. Applicants must verify that they have at least $1,000 in agricultural products. Applicants face other stipulations as well, but the conservationist said he would prefer that interested parties contact NRCS directly for more details.
Eligible areas for Louisiana’s 2013 Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative include portions of 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 parishes.
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 17.
Interested producers should contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office or visit for more information. A directory of NRCS offices in Louisiana can be found at