Under Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program, the Department partners with landowners to restore and preserve native habitat and landscapes for wildlife in Oklahoma. The Department shares part of the cost of habitat improvement work by providing partial reimbursement after the project is done. In exchange, the landowner agrees to maintain the habitat for a period of 10 years.
Landowners may apply for the program at any time, but applications are grouped by the calendar year of receipt (e.g., an application submitted between 1-1-2020 and 12-31-2020 would be grouped together for funding in 2021). After applications are submitted, the landowner will be contacted by their designated Private Lands Biologist who will discuss landowner objectives and likely schedule a visit to view the property, lay out a plan and identify the habitat practice that will be applied under the program.
All applications for a calendar year will be reviewed by a team in June to ensure projects meet program objectives and that the project will appreciably improve local wildlife habitat. Landowners will be notified of the outcome after the review, and those with approved projects will be presented an agreement that they can accept and sign. When signing the agreement, landowners are entering a 1-year contract to complete the identified work with a subsequent 10-year agreement to maintain the completed work (e.g. if the WHIP project includes installing 1 mile of firebreaks, ODWC expects that 1 mile of firebreak to still be a functioning firebreak 10 years later). After the agreement is signed, the landowner is free to start work on their project.
Generally, agreements are designed to have until June 30th of the following year to complete the work. After completion of the project, the assigned Biologist will schedule another visit to inspect the work and confirm the quantity of identified habitat practices (i.e. if 5 acres of timber stand improvement was planned, was 5 acres accomplished). The Biologist will then initiate the paperwork required to process your reimbursement based on the work completed. Landowners will generally receive a payment within 45-90 days from the inspection site visit.
Examples of approved projects include but are not limited to, timber thinning or the creation of small openings in timber stands, native grass planting, cedar removal, firebreak installation, native tree or shrub planting, or small wetland creation. Short-term habitat improvements like food plots and disking are encouraged but are not considered for cost-sharing.
If you are interested in participating in this program please read the WHIP Bulletin for complete details before applying.