Conservation programs administrated by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Farm Bill have tremendous potential to impact wildlife habitat and populations on private land. Recent comprehensive reviews demonstrate that private landowners who participate in these programs have established habitats that may contribute to sustaining some regional wildlife populations. However, I argue that if Farm Bill conservation program lands are to consistently provide habitat that supports viable wildlife populations, conservation planners must have a better understanding of species-specific habitat requirements and ecological processes. Concomitantly, wildlife biologists also must have a working knowledge of the conservation programs, practices, and landowner needs and eligibility requirements. This understanding is then translated to changes on the landscape through comprehensive planning and implementation at the farm scale. I argue that, all too often, landowner's selection of conservation practices is program-driven. Program-driven implementation is less likely to result in quality wildlife habitat. I contend that the consistent application of an objective-driven approach to farm-scale conservation planning is more likely to produce habitats that sustain viable wildlife populations. Under this approach, landowner conservation objectives drive management practices and management practices lead to program selection, instead of program requirements driving management practices.
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