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Conservation Program To
Protect Wildlife


Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner has announced USDA approval of conservation projects on more than a quarter-million acres in 18 states under a new partnership within the Conservation Reserve Program.

The projects unveiled are the first to be approved under a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practice called SAFE, which stands for State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement.

When USDA announced this program last year, it set the SAFE enrollment goal at 500,000 acres. The new announcement approves 45 projects for up to 259,776 of these acres as wildlife habitat for threatened, endangered and other high-priority species. SAFE, like other continuous CRP practices, targets smaller parcels of environmentally sensitive land to achieve maximum environmental benefit.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) state offices will announce sign-up for these SAFE projects soon. Landowners can enroll by visiting their local FSA service center. USDA will approve additional projects in the near future.

Positive Impact On Environment

The 45 approved projects will help restore and enhance habitat to benefit a wide range of wildlife species, many of which are declining or threatened with extinction.

By enrolling more than 14,000 acres of agricultural land in CRP, conservation partners expect that the Texas Gulf Coast Prairies SAFE project will benefit the mottled duck, northern bobwhite quail, Attwater’s greater prairie chicken and numerous other bird species that are declining or of special conservation concern.

In Washington, conservation partners determined that enrolling 500 acres of the Olympic Peninsula in CRP will increase habitat and forage for the declining Olympic elk herd.

In Minnesota, Pheasants Forever and other project partners expect the enrollment of 23,100 acres in CRP will restore and enhance habitat for ring-necked pheasant populations, as well as benefit waterfowl.

Projects are also approved for: Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. A fact sheet of all approved SAFE projects can be found at: www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/safepr08.pdf.

Local Partners Have Input

Under SAFE, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners determined geographic areas where enrollment of farm land in CRP would benefit threatened, endangered or other high priority species. Project partners then developed conservation proposals that included enrolling land in the designated geographic areas in CRP using existing CRP practices for the benefit of specific species of concern.

FSA evaluated SAFE proposals to determine whether the selected practices would create the desired habitat. SAFE proposals had to be approved by qualified wildlife professionals and include a wildlife monitoring and evaluation plan. SAFE is a wildlife management tool that helps state and regional agencies, non-profit organizations and others to address local wildlife objectives.

Effective CRP Program

By developing SAFE projects, these organizations and their partners are enhancing the effectiveness of CRP by helping to establish higher-quality habitat and healthier ecosystems for species of concern and other wildlife.

Under CRP, farmers and ranchers enroll eligible land in 10- to 15-year contracts with USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). FSA administers CRP on behalf of CCC. Participants plant appropriate cover such as grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams.

These plantings help prevent soil and nutrients from running into regional waterways and affecting water quality. The long-term vegetative cover also improves wildlife habitat and soil quality.

USDA contributed information for this article.

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