Millions of Acres Secured Via Conservation Reserve Program
3.9 million acres enrolled in latest signup for federal Farm Bill program; sportsmen tout benefits for fish and wildlife, landowners, economy
WASHINGTON – The enrollment of almost 4 million acres of privately owned agricultural lands in the federal Conservation Reserve Program promises to bolster fish and wildlife populations, aid landowners and boost the economy, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today.
The addition of these 3.9 million acres, part of a general signup for the CRP initiated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in March, will advance the landscape-level benefits set in motion by the CRP since it was established more than a quarter-century ago. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the gains in the popular landowner program this morning.
A component of the federal Farm Bill, the CRP encourages farmers and ranchers to plant ground cover that conserves soil, water and wildlife resources, improving habitat for waterfowl, upland birds and wild turkeys. Through the CRP, landowners have restored millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat, resulting in the annual production of 13.5 million pheasants nationwide and 2.2 million ducks in the Prairie Pothole region. Currently, 29.6 million total acres are enrolled in the program.
“The conservation of close to 4 million additional acres of our nation’s agricultural land is an accomplishment worth applauding – and it underscores the need for congressional support of CRP in the next Farm Bill,” said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “The gratifying success of this most recent CRP signup means that fish and wildlife, sportsmen – and rural America’s recreation-based economies – all stand to gain.”
While praising this morning’s announcement, however, sportsmen expressed concern about declines in CRP acreage in areas critical to waterfowl and upland birds, such as the Northern Great Plains.
“Altogether, Northern Plains states will lose more than 1 million acres of CRP lands during the 2012 re-enrollment process,” said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, both TRCP partner groups. “This development could dramatically impact pheasant and waterfowl populations, harm critical habitat, diminish water quality and reduce hunting and angling opportunities.”
“The importance of programs like the CRP testifies to the value of the federal Farm Bill,” Kline concluded, “but in no way diminishes the pressing need for Congress to unite and swiftly pass a new Farm Bill before the year’s end.”
The TRCP is working to ensure that the 2012 Farm Bill authorizes and strongly funds conservation programs that can sustain America’s hunting and fishing heritage. Learn more about the TRCP’s private and agricultural lands conservation work.