How We Work
Sharing coffee at the kitchen table. Partnering with researchers and ranchers. Focusing on landscape-level threats.
A Win-Win Approach to Conservation
Working Lands for Wildlife is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s premier approach for conserving America’s working lands to benefit people, wildlife, and rural communities. WLFW uses win-win solutions to target voluntary, incentive-based conservation that improves agricultural productivity and wildlife habitat on working lands.
Everyone benefits when we work together to restore clean water and healthy soils and when we keep working grass and shrub lands intact. As the saying goes, what’s good for the herd is good for the bird–meaning that conservation of grasslands benefits ranchers and wildlife alike. This is important as these ecoregions are home to hundreds of at-risk plants and animals, including the iconic sage grouse, lesser prairie-chicken and migratory big game species like elk, pronghorn and mule deer.
The USDA’s NRCS capitalizes on this win-win opportunity and marshals the power of the Farm Bill to help keep the West’s grasslands and sagebrush country productive, intact, and resilient through our Working Lands for Wildlife approach.
Landowner led. Science informed.
Ingredients for Success
The USDA’s NRCS capitalizes on this win-win opportunity and marshals the power of the Farm Bill to help keep the West’s grasslands and sagebrush country productive, intact, and resilient through our Working Lands for Wildlife approach:
- Trust and Credibility: Taking a community, grassroots approach to conservation that is based on the principles of neighborliness.
- Shared Vision: Finding the common link between wildlife, agriculture, and forestry that invites cooperation over conflict.
- Strategic Approach: Directing resources where the biological returns are the highest.
- Accountability: Using science to measure conservation effectiveness and quantify resulting outcomes.
- Leverage: Multiplying investments through partnerships that achieve more conservation.
Through WLFW, NRCS partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide regulatory predictability under the Endangered Species Act. Similar to an insurance policy, predictability provides landowners with peace of mind that no matter the legal status of a species, they can keep their working lands working with an NRCS conservation plan in place.
This innovative approach empowers landowners with a means to make on-the-ground improvements and provides peace of mind that no matter the legal status of a species, they can keep their working lands working.
In the West, WLFW's private lands conservation efforts played an important role in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's 2015 decision that both the Greater sage-grouse and the Bi-state sage grouse were not warranted for listing under the ESA.
Similarly, in the Northeast, WLFW's efforts helped keep the New England cottontail rabbit off the ESA.
In both instances, WLFW continued working with landowners after the ESA determination. Since 2015, we've expanded our work in sagebrush country, and in 2022, New England Cottontail populations had recovered to the point where national WLFW focus was no longer needed.
Frameworks for Action
- In 2021-2022, a multi-state, areawide planning team produced the first biome-scale frameworks for wildlife conservation on landscapes that cover wide swaths of the U.S.
- Great Plains Grasslands Biome
- Sagebrush Biome
- Northern Bobwhite, Grasslands, and Savannas
These frameworks for conservation action:
- Document the most pressing threats to the specific biomes with science-backed resources
- Highlight the focal species that help us gauge the overall health of these ecosystems
- Detail the how the NRCS can support conservation actions that address these threats while benefiting producers, and
- Outline NRCS’s conservation and restoration goals
Working for working lands from Maine to Hawaii
Working Lands for Wildlife's approach to voluntary, win-win conservation reaches across the country. From forests to deserts and from turtles to rabbits, WLFW partners with landowners in ways that benefit their operation and the wildlife who call it home, too.
For Ranchers and Landowners
We’ve made it easy for you to find and speak to a person who knows your local area and can give you the help you need.
Simply visit the NRCS Service Center Locator, click on your state, and then your county.