Washington, D.C. — This week, the USDA accepted 2.8 million acres nationwide offered by landowners during the recent Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup; acres Pheasants Forever says will be the most wildlife-friendly ever enrolled in the program. Although Pheasants Forever recognizes the importance of the newly enrolled 2.8 million CRP acres, the organization is concerned with a possible net loss of nearly 800,000 CRP acres in key pheasant states later in 2011. Consequently, Pheasants Forever is calling on the USDA to reallocate additional acres for a pair of continuous CRP practices to avoid devastating loss of upland habitat in the Midwest.
During the 41st CRP general signup this spring, landowners offered more than 3.7 million acres for enrollment in the country’s leading conservation program, with more than 2.8 million acres ultimately accepted – an acceptance rate of 75 percent. “The USDA selects offers based on a ratings system comprised of five environmental factors, the top of which is wildlife enhancement – that’s the good news for pheasants,” said Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Affairs, “Unfortunately, acceptance rates in some top pheasant states were closer to 50 percent, meaning nearly 800,000 acres currently providing wildlife habitat in pheasant country are susceptible to conversion this fall unless we act swiftly with USDA to provide landowners with more CRP availability.”
State; Accepted Acres (Signup 41); Expiring Acres (9/30/11); 2011 Net CRP Loss
- Colorado; 315,162; 346,355; 31,193
- Illinois; 35,483; 68,482; 32,999
- Iowa; 45,421; 72,324; 26,903
- Kansas; 336,773; 531,925; 195,152
- Minnesota; 33,180; 127,595; 94,415
- Nebraska; 86,860; 151,360; 64,500
- North Dakota; 113,964; 385,656; 271,962
- South Dakota; 47,036; 126,286; 79,250
*Not including continuous signup enrollment between May and September 2011
Because the USDA budgeted to accept 4.1 million acres during the recent CRP general signup, Pheasants Forever sees room to shift acreage allotments from the general CRP to continuous CRP practices – available to landowners year-round – and has requested the USDA to focus on two popular practices, specifically Conservation Practices 37 and 38, to help maintain wildlife habitat at or near current levels. “USDA and Secretary Tom Vilsack are open to considering ways to use continuous enrollments to ensure CRP is targeting the most vulnerable acres,” Nomsen said, “Conservation Practices 37 and 38 target exactly those vulnerable acres while fitting well with agricultural production at this time of high commodity prices.”
Conservation Practice 37 (CP 37), a “Duck Nesting Habitat” initiative, currently has more than 136,000 acres enrolled in the Prairie Pothole Region states of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The current allocation is 150,000 acres. In addition to the obvious benefits to waterfowl, CP 37 provides valuable grassland habitat for a wide variety other wildlife species, including pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse.
Conservation Practice 38 (CP 38), also known as the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement program (SAFE), focuses on environmentally sensitive land, as well as species that have suffered significant population declines and/or are considered to be socially or economically valuable. Many states have maxed out their SAFE acre allotment and have waiting lists for landowners eager to enroll, including pheasant states such as Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 135,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent – the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.
Anthony Hauck (651) 209-4972