Landowner Incentive Program now accepting project proposals for Driftless Area private lands restoration


MADISON – Private landowners, conservation organizations, and land trusts can now apply for funding and technical help through the Landowner Incentive Program to create and manage habitat for rare plants and animals in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area.

Since these grants were first awarded in 2006, the Landowner Incentive Program has helped improve nearly 8,000 acres of habitat for more than 240 at-risk species, including red-headed woodpeckers, bullsnakes and pickerel frogs to Hill’s thistle and purple milkweed.

The program is competitive, and landowners should visit the Landowner Incentive Program website to review project ranking criteria, eligible work and costs for details. For application information and more helpful tools, search the DNR website,, for “LIP.

Any privately-owned land located within the Driftless Area is eligible for the program, including traditional private parcels and land trust holdings. Projects must clearly provide benefits to at-risk species and their habitat, but often benefit other species as well.

Eligible work includes, but is not limited to, prescribed burns, planting native vegetation, and invasive and woody species removal.

“We’re very pleased to be able to offer property owners technical and financial help that will benefit rare and declining plant and animal species in the Driftless area,” says Drew Feldkirchner, who leads the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation that runs the Landowner Incentive Program. “Landowners play a key role in helping conserve our natural heritage for future generations and we appreciate that the work is not always easy but brings great benefits to all of us.”

The Department of Natural Resources recently received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s competitive State Wildlife Grants program – these funds will help support the Landowner Incentive Program. Portions of the grant will also be used to conduct inventories of priority species and manage public lands within the region and can cover up to 75 percent of total project costs.

Funding is provided to highly ranked projects on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants may request funding between $2,500 and $25,000; however, most awards are around $4,000 to $6,000. Projects generally last one year but may be extended for reasons such as weather complications.

How to apply

Landowners who have received LIP funding in the past can contact DNR program staff directly to receive a project application, while new applicants must complete an online pre-proposal form. A site visit by an LIP biologist may also be required to assess a project proposal. If the pre-proposal is approved, landowners are invited to submit a more detailed full project proposal – this includes a comprehensive budget, project objectives, work schedule and evaluation benchmarks.

As a cost-share program, the department will reimburse a landowner for up to 75 percent of the cost for on-the-ground practices. Landowners are required to contribute the remaining 25 percent share through out-of-pocket costs (cash match), or as an in-kind labor and equipment match.

To learn how some Dane County landowners are putting LIP money to work to benefit rare species, check out the Swamplovers [PDF] story in the June issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine.