Prominent sportsmen’s groups united to praise introduction of “Sodsaver” legislation, which would support conservation of grasslands critical to fish and wildlife and valued by hunters and anglers, in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today.

Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota introduced the Protect Our Prairies Act as the House Agriculture Committee proceeds with formulating its version of the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill’s conservation title is central to the conservation and enhancement of millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat and the hunting and fishing opportunities they provide.

Sodsaver promotes land management practices that facilitate the conservation of native grasslands, one of America’s most iconic and threatened ecosystems. Grasslands provide essential habitat and breeding grounds for countless species of North American ducks and other recreationally important species like pheasants and deer. A Senate decision to integrate a strong Sodsaver provision – initially proposed as an amendment by Sen. John Thune of South Dakota – in its version of the Farm Bill likewise drew praise from sportsmen.

“Sodsaver has long been a Farm Bill priority for sportsmen, and thanks to the leadership of Representatives Noem and Walz, we have Sodsaver legislation in the House that mirrors that included in the Senate Farm Bill earlier this year,” said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, both TRCP partner groups. “Today’s introduction marks an important step forward in conserving our nation’s remaining grassland habitat, so essential to a variety of economically important wildlife. We look forward to working with Ms. Noem and Mr. Walz to make Sodsaver a reality in the next Farm Bill.”

Grasslands help prevent erosion and nutrient runoff, provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife and afford ample opportunities for outdoor recreation of all kinds. Productive farmlands and grasslands also serve as an important economic engine for rural America and help secure the long-term sustainability of American farmers.

“A robust U.S. farm sector is vital to the national economy and to conservation and must be the top priority of the 2012 Farm Bill,” said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “Including Sodsaver in the next Farm Bill helps strengthen the farm safety net by assuring that limited federal funds are used to sustain the most traditionally productive acres.”

“The legislation introduced today by Representatives Noem and Walz illustrates a commitment to conserve native grasslands from legislators who represent areas, namely South Dakota and Minnesota, where significant tracts of these important habitats remain. These areas help produce millions of waterfowl that migrate across the country, to the delight of hunters and wildlife watchers alike,” said Dan Wrinn, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited, a TRCP partner group. “In the past several years, high crop prices have increased the pressure on these fragile areas, but the Sodsaver provision offered today helps alleviate some of that pressure in a way that leaves land-use decision making where it belongs: in the hands of landowners.”

As the House builds its version of the new Farm Bill sportsmen continue to urge swift action by the full Congress to expedite passage of this key legislation before the end of 2012. Learn more about the TRCP’s private and agricultural lands conservation work.

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