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Project WINGS Offers Funding for Habitat Improvements

This year's applicants will receive higher payments after planting right-of-way food plots.

GON Staff | April 27, 2006

Project WINGS recently made a change that will put more money in your wallet, at least if you plan to sign up for the program this summer. Incentive payments for planting food plots in transmission and gas line right of ways has been increased. Participants will now receive $50 per acre, per year, per utility. You may apply for this cash assistance on up to 10 acres, which means $500 a year would come back to you.

Project WINGS, which is an acronym for Wildlife Incentives for Non-game and Game Species, is a three-year program which could now put $1,500 in your pocket, compared to just $1,350 in previous years. If you’ve got more than one utility company running through the property, you can enroll those acres separately, meaning even more money to help you plant food plots.

Georgia Power and Two Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council launched Project WINGS in 1996 as an incentive program to encourage landowners and hunting clubs to turn idle right-of-way acres into wildlife openings while getting funded for it. Since its inception, more than 1,900 Georgians have created over 13,000 acres of new habitat for wildlife.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said John West with Georgia Power. “It’s a good thing for wildlife, and it gives something back to strengthen our environmental commitment. The more right of ways under Project WINGS, the less it costs us to maintain it.”

How can you turn idle right-of-way acres into wildlife food and get some money for it?

If there is a transmission line running through your property that is owned by Georgia Power, Georgia Transmission Corporation, MEAG or Savannah Electric, you can apply for the program.

Distribution right of ways do not qualify for the program.

“Transmission right of ways are usually a little over 100-feet wide, and they can be as wide as 500-feet wide,” said John. “Distribution right of ways are usually 30-feet wide or less.”

Basically if you’ve got a transmission right of way through your property, you’re going to be eligible. The only exception may be a small stretch in northwest Georgia that aren’t owned by the above utilities.

Also, if you’ve got an Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) gas line on your property, you too can receive cash assistance through Project WINGS. After AGL joined the program in 2003, over 13,000 acres of gas lines have been converted to food plots.

To qualify for Project WINGS, your right of ways can not be in row crops or pasture land, unless you’re willing to convert those acres to wildlife food plots.

You don’t have to own land to apply for this assistance.

“You can own, lease, you can be an individual, a corporation, a government entity,” said Forrest Hill, director for Two Rivers. “We have Project WINGS sites on some wildlife management areas.”

Two Rivers pitched the concept behind Project WINGS to Georgia Power in the mid 1990s. They now handle the administrative part of the program.

To apply for this cash assistance, you must contact your county Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office between May 15 and July 15. They’ll make sure you qualify for Project WINGS, and if you do they’ll help you decide what plantings are best suited for your particular needs. Are you interested in feeding quail, deer, songbirds, turkeys?

“You can have NRCS meet you on the property,” said Forrest. “NRCS can write a management plan. All the applications come to our office, and during the first week of August all five utilities come to our office and look at integrated transmission system (ITS) maps and sit there with all the applications.”

Your local NRCS office will have these ITS maps, which show all eligible right of ways. Once approved for the program, and most applications get accepted, you can plant. Finally, NRCS will need to look at your food plot before you’ll be sent a check.

Project WINGS also announced its “In Three, Out Three” program. If you have a right-of-way area that was in Project WINGS for three years and has been out for three years, you can now re-enroll those same acres.

Log on to <tworiversrcd.org> or <www.southernco.com> to find a phone number to your county NRSC office. To contact the Project WINGS headquarters at Two Rivers, call (706) 885-0101.

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