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You are here: Home / News & Events / Eastern Hellbender News / 2022 Was a Busy Year for the Working Lands for Wildlife Hellbender Program

2022 Was a Busy Year for the Working Lands for Wildlife Hellbender Program

2022 was a busy year for the Working Lands for Wildlife hellbender program.

The Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) hellbender program has just wrapped up its fourth full year of implementation, and it has been a busy one. First authorized in 2018, this program has grown in capacity every year. Its team of Private Lands Biologists (PLBs) have continually honed and refined their knowledge about how best to help restore hellbender habitat through the use of NRCS conservation practices, all while assisting hundreds of farmers to achieve their sustainability goals. This year, PLBs helped numerous landowners submit applications for funding through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); 10 in North Carolina, 5 in Tennessee, and 10 in Virginia, the program’s three original states. Of those, 4 were awarded funding by NRCS in NC, 3 in TN, and 1 in VA. The funded projects will allow farmers to restore stream banks, exclude cattle from streams, and plant forested riparian buffers in watersheds where improved water quality and reduced sedimentation will help to restore hellbender habitat and strengthen their populations.

The program has racked up other accomplishments this year, too. NRCS in Alabama, which formally joined the program in 2021, awarded funding to its first two projects in 2022. Georgia, which also joined in 2021, submitted their first hellbender WLFW applications this year. The state of West Virginia formally joined the program in 2022 and NRCS staff are excited to hit the ground running in 2023. The program hired two new PLBs to assist farmers in TN and VA. And finally, the PLBs worked hard this year to develop and test a new “Stream Quantification Tool (SQT)” monitoring protocol that will allow them to measure improvements to hellbender habitat over time as a result of conservation practices that are installed through the program. As the WLFW hellbender program continues to build momentum, the team reports that they are looking forward to even more success in the year to come!