Albany, NY (WIBX) - Private landowners may be eligible for incentives from the Department of Environmental Conservation, simply for maintaining grasslands.

Between 1965 and 2006, New York lost about one third of its pastures and hay fields, causing a steady decline in grassland birds like the short-eared owl and the Henslow's sparrow. During the same time period, DEC officials say grassland bird populations dropped an average of 6.5 percent each year.

To address the decline, the DEC is instituting the Landowner Incentive Program for Grassland Protection and Management.

The agency is offering a total of $1 million in grants to anyone with at least 25 contiguous acres of grassland. Owners can receive at least $110 per acre, per year, by maintaining the habitat. Higher rates will be paid to those living closer to population centers.

Congress is funding the program, and hopes to rebuild species populations before they need to be listed on the Federal Endangered Species Act.

For more information regarding the DEC's Landowner Incentive Program, click here. Applications are due by January 15th.