Sportsmen Commend Move Promoting Agricultural-Lands Conservation

New signup for Conservation Reserve Program will safeguard valuable fish and wildlife habitat, sustain hunting and fishing, boost local economies

WASHINGTON – Prominent voices in the sportsmen’s community are commending a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to open a general signup for the federal Conservation Reserve Program, a cornerstone of the Farm Bill critical to sustaining privately owned lands and the fish and wildlife resources that rely on them, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today.

Members of the TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group joined in praising news of the signup, the first opportunity in a year for landowners to participate in the successful conservation program. The announcement was made this morning by USDA Acting Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse.

“In spite of record prices for many crops, landowner interest in participating in the Conservation Reserve Program remains high,” said Dave Howell, a regional director with Quail Unlimited, an AWWG member. “The USDA’s continued commitment to maintaining CRP enrollment, particularly in light of the budgetary challenges our nation currently is facing, is commendable and bodes well for the future of this popular conservation program.”

The 25-year-old CRP, a mainstay of U.S. farm policy, incentivizes farmers and ranchers to plant ground cover that bolsters soil, water and wildlife resources, improving habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, wild turkeys and many other wildlife species. It also enhances fish habitat through the installation of filter strips and riparian buffers, reducing sediment and chemical runoff. Millions of acres of CRP contracts will expire in the coming years, however, threatening the landscape-level beneļ¬ts provided by the program.

“With millions of acres of CRP lands expiring and potentially returning to production, the need to enroll as much land as possible through general signups is critical to sustaining some of our best fish and wildlife habitat, as well as to maintaining the funding that makes continued conservation of these resources possible,” said James L. Cummins, executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a TRCP working group member. “While we applaud today’s announcement by the USDA, an additional CRP signup in the fall will be key in capturing as much demand as possible.”

Through the CRP, private landowners have restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands and 2 million acres of riparian buffers and conserved 170,000 miles of streams, resulting in the annual production of 13.5 million pheasants nationwide and 2.2 million ducks in the Prairie Pothole region. The CRP also provides $1.8 billion annually to private landowners, thereby supporting local economies and sustaining jobs in rural communities across the country.

“By facilitating public participation in the Conservation Reserve Program, the Agriculture Department is testifying to the value CRP brings to both citizens and natural resources,” said Jennifer Mock Schaeffer, Farm Bill coordinator for the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, a member of the AWWG. “As deliberations surrounding the 2012 Farm Bill continue, the significance of economically important programs like the CRP cannot be ignored.”

The TRCP AWWG, a coalition of representatives from the TRCP and the nation’s leading conservation and sportsman organizations, is focused on the critical process of advocating for and implementing key Farm Bill programs that benefit fish and wildlife and hunters and anglers.

Read the USDA release with details about today’s announcement.

Learn more about the Conservation Reserve Program.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work in support of private-lands conservation.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations
and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions
of hunting and fishing.