Tuesday, May 12, 2015

USDA CONSERVATION PROGRAM REACHES 1 MILLION ACRES WITH HELP FROM IOWA PARTNERS AND LANDOWNERS

English: Iowa Department of Natural Resources logo

A major national conservation program that restores high-priority wildlife habitat has surpassed 1 million acres with the recent enrollment of land in La Moure County, North Dakota. 
The initiative, known as State Acres for wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), is a part of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally-funded voluntary program that contracts with agricultural producers so that environmentally-sensitive land is not farmed or ranched, but instead used for conservation benefits.
Iowa has played a significant role in the achievement contributing nearly 90,000 acres with its four SAFE projects – the early successional forest bird’s project in northeast Iowa, the Grand River grasslands project for prairie chickens in Ringgold County, the gaining ground project for grassland birds statewide and the Iowa pheasant recovery project. Farm Service Agency staff, Iowa DNR private lands biologists, and Pheasants Forever biologists helped landowners enroll these critical acres throughout the state.
The one Iowa project with acres still available is the Pheasant Recovery – SAFE program. Iowa landowners who want to restore top notch pheasant habitats to their property may enroll in this continuous CRP practice designed to restore native grasslands and wetlands where they will be the most beneficial for ring-necked pheasants.
An estimated 6,300 acres are still available for projects in Iowa’s primary and secondary pheasant counties and are going fast.
 “Landowners have responded so positively to SAFE projects to the point that we requested additional acres to meet the demand,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
With SAFE, wildlife that may be endangered, suffering population declines, or that provide value to the local community, is identified by nonfederal partners. Agricultural producers within an approved SAFE area then can submit offers to voluntarily enroll acres in CRP contracts for 10-15 years. In exchange, these producers receive annual CRP rental payments, incentives and cost-share assistance focused on establishing, improving, or creating higher-quality wildlife habitat.
SAFE began in 2007 to focus on establishing key plant species that help not just soil and water, but also are beneficial to selected rural wildlife habitat. And as it enhances the flora and fauna of the countryside, it can also create recreational opportunities for the sportsman, which is an investment in the rural economy.
Producers can offer land for enrollment in SAFE and other CRP programs by contacting their local FSA county office at http://offices.usda.gov , visiting with their local DNR private lands biologist athttp://www.iowadnr.gov/privatelands, or inquire with a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologist in Iowa athttps://www.pheasantsforever.org/getdoc/d68502f8-71ec-423c-a8a0-dbaf1e2851b2/Farm-Bill-Biologists.aspx. To learn more about Farm Service Agency conservation programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.
The 2014 Farm Bill continues the Conservation Reserve Program. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill. To learn more about FSA, visitwww.fsa.usda.gov.