ESCANABA - The Delta Conservation District has recently started a Wildlife Habitat Assistance Program. The goal of the program is to make creating habitat for wildlife more affordable to landowners.
"The Conservation District itself has locked into some money with Wildlife Unlimited, U.P. White Tails, and also USDA to cost-share on wildlife habitat in the South-Central U.P.," said Rory Mattson, executive director of the Delta Conservation District.
The cost-sharing program allows landowners to complete special projects on their land at a significantly lower cost than they would pay on their own. The Delta Conservation District also connects landowners with outside contractors for projects.
Because the program area is larger than Delta County, landowners in other parts of the South-Central Upper Peninsula can use the cost-sharing program to build wildlife habitats on their land. "It doesn't necessarily have to be Delta County," said Mattson.
Projects covered by the program include: opening creation, grassland and food plot seeding, tree and shrub planting, creating shallow wildlife ponds, and management plans.
"Opening creation is where you take a bulldozer out into the woods and make an opening," explained Mattson.
The openings benefit deer, wild turkeys, ruffled grouse, and black bears, as well as many non-game animals.
"There's never been a better time to do a large tree planting - five acres or more. Chances are we'll be able to get it all paid for," says Mattson. The money for large tree planting projects comes from the USDA.
Funding for all other projects comes from U.P. Whitetails and Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County. Through these two organizations, the money for the cost-share program is being raised locally.
"They do a lot of hard work," adds Mattson.
Grassland and food plot seeding help create environments more appealing to animals such as pheasants, turkey, and deer. Shrub and tree planting provides cover for many animals, and shallow water wildlife ponds create ideal environments for ducks, geese, and other animals.
Mattson is positive these services are what landowners want. "Those have been things that have been very popular in the past that people wanted to do," says Mattson. The program also provides cost-sharing for other projects with conservation district approval. The cost-share also allows the conservation district to asses the needs of landowners and collect money for the programs most desired.
Landowners interested in the program will need to fill out an application identifying the programs of their interest, the location of their land, and the acreage for each project. Applicants will be notified when the conservation district secures money for the project.
Because of the time necessary to secure funding and connect landowners with outside services for their projects, Mattson recommends landowners apply for assistance at least one year before they plan to implement their projects.
"We want landowners to come in, and we can help put in all these projects," says Mattson. "We're trying to get that habitat on the ground."
For more information about the program or to get an application contact the Delta Conservation District at 553-7700 or stop by their new location inside Pioneer Trail Park at 6822 US 2-41 and M35.