WASHINGTON – A new U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative enabling private landowners to enroll lands in the Conservation Reserve Program, including 1 million acres in CRP measures to conserve grasslands and wetlands, is a commendable approach to sustaining private lands fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and angling opportunities, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today.
“Increased enrollment of important fish and wildlife habitat land through targeted signups is the goal of the new CRP grasslands and wetlands initiative, and the USDA’s commendable approach will ensure that this objective is achieved,” said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “Specific enrollment goals within the 32-million acre program will be set to benefit duck nesting habitat, upland bird habitat and wetlands, thereby helping secure fish and wildlife populations critical to our nation’s outdoor traditions.”
Under the new program, producers whose lands meet eligibility criteria can enroll their lands directly in this “continuous” category of the CRP at any time. This move eliminates the need for landowners to wait for a general CRP signup, the process under which most CRP acres are enrolled. Continuous CRP, or CCRP, is designed to expedite conservation of some of the nation’s most ecologically sensitive areas of privately owned land. As of Jan. 2012, 5.2 million acres are enrolled in CCRP, compared to 29.6 million acres enrolled in the CRP overall.
“CCRP offers a host of conservation practices for wetlands, buffers, wildlife habitat and native grass,” said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, which are members of the TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group. “But each of these conservation practices has an acre allocation, and many of the practices covered in today’s announcement were either at very near their allocation and unable to enroll new acres. This new initiative will improve the ability of CCRP to conserve some of our most important fish and wildlife habitat.”
In issuing the announcement this morning, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized the benefits to sportsmen and landowners, as well as the economic boost to rural America’s recreation-based economies.
“In these times of high crop and land values, CCRP needs to remain competitive,” commented Bridget Collins, agriculture policy coordinator with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. “This new USDA initiative increases CCRP signing incentives payments for some practices from $100 to $150 per acre, further incentivizing landowners to enroll – and conserve – this valuable habitat.”
Agricultural- and private-lands conservation remains a cornerstone of the TRCP’s policy work, and the efforts of its partner organizations were instrumental in the inclusion of and improvements to vital conservation programs in the 2008 Farm Bill. Millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat and the hunting and fishing opportunities they provide have been conserved and enhanced through Farm Bill programs. The TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group is committed to ensuring that the 2012 Farm Bill authorizes and strongly funds conservation programs that will help secure America’s hunting and fishing heritage.