The Montana Wildlife Habitat Improvement Act was passed into law by the 2017 Legislature. The purpose of the act is to make federal funding available to restore priority wildlife habitats by managing noxious weeds. The legislation makes available up to $2M annually in federal Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration funds, which requires a dollar of nonfederal matching funds (cash) for every 3 dollars of federal grant funding.
Projects are intended to be focused on ecologically-important wildlife habitats with landscape-scale benefits. Grants, which are paid in the form of reimbursed expenses, may be issued for up to five year’s duration. Priorities for funding include: landscape-scale projects lands that are open to public hunting and involve priority wildlife habitats; noxious weed infestations that directly impact habitat functions; broad partnerships involving multiple landowners; proposals with leveraging beyond the minimum match funding requirement; projects that retain or restore native plant communities.
The annual application period is open for the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP), a grant funding program administered by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The purpose of WHIP is to accomplish large-scale restoration of private and publicly owned high-priority wildlife habitats through noxious weed management. Grant expenditures are limited to herbicide, mechanical, biocontrol, and re-seeding treatments, specifically to restore wildlife habitat functions. Grazing management improvements may also be funded through the program to restore native wildlife habitats and reduce susceptibility to noxious weed invasion.
Grant awards are based on eligibility and competitive ranking. To qualify for funding, projects must: enhance ecologically important wildlife habitat through control or management of noxious weeds that directly threaten habitat functions; use a landscape scale approach; have a reasonable probability of treatment effectiveness; and include a minimum 25 percent non-federal cash match. In addition to considering eligibility factors, ranking criteria includes the number of funding partners and amount of contributions, number of landowners involved, and accessibility of participating lands for public hunting. Awarded grants can be structured to provide funding for up to five years.
Apply Online! Application forms must be submitted electronically and can be found at funding.mt.gov using the online WebGrants system. Applicants new to WebGrants must register first before accessing the application forms.
DEADLINE: WHIP applications must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on November 23, 2020, to be considered for funding in 2021.
The Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) is overseen by a Citizens’ Advisory Council. Council members are appointed by the Director of Montana Department Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) through the application process.
Council members are responsible for advising the department on administration of the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) and making recommendations pertaining grant application rankings (MCA 87-5-803 and 804). The statute includes specific representation requirements to serve on the Council. Voting members consist of:
Non-voting council members include the State Weed Coordinator and one representative from each of the following: U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation; and an Indian tribe.
FWP adopted rules for the program, 12.9.16 ARM. These rules provide a framework for how the program operates and can be beneficial for understanding funding priorities.