Overall, there are generally two general types of these programs available-(1) Land retirement programs (sometimes referred to as "wildlife easements") and (2) Working lands programs. Versions of these programs are generally available at both the state and federal level.
Land retirement programs generally require that an agricultural landowner set-aside a specific piece of land for some significant duration of time (i.e., 10-30 years) or even retire that land into perpetuity. The landowner/growers is then eligible for either a one-time payment or and annual rental payment for the retirement of his/her land. In most cases, the land is then managed for wildlife values without the ability for the landowner to farm the property.
Working lands programs are those that offer the landowner an incentive payment for a practice or an installation that offers certain environmental benefits. These might include activities that benefit wildlife, water quality, air quality or soil erosion.
An exciting new opportunity exists with the Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program (WHEP). The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting WHEP applications through February 15, 2013. Please contact your local NRCS office to learn more about the program and application process.
WHEP January 22 Workshop details
WHEP Background Information
NRCS WHEP Summary & Application Information
Waterbird Practice Summary