Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

New CRP option will benefit state wildlife

St. Paul – While storm clouds remain on the horizon for the
Conservation Reserve Program, there’s also a bit of blue sky.

Federal officials announced at Pheasant Fest last week that up
to 23,100 acres of land in the state’s pheasant range could be
restored and enhanced under Conservation Practice 38, also known as
State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement.

A total of nearly 260,000 acres are eligible in 18 states for
SAFE, a continuous CRP practice that will focus on providing
habitat for species such as pheasants, prairie chickens, and
elk.

“When you add all of this up, I think this was a very strong
step forward in terms of elevating wildlife as one of CRP’s top
priorities,” said Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental
affairs for Pheasants Forever.

SAFE enrollment will begin soon, said Chuck Conner, acting
secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and additional
projects will be approved toward the goal of enrolling 500,000
acres across the nation.

The acreage in Minnesota will benefit pheasants, waterfowl,
prairie chickens, and other birds that depend on grassland. The
state’s project is called Minnesota Back Forty SAFE.

“The landowners are going to be able to enroll up to 40 acres in
grassland,” said Matt Holland, senior field coordinator for PF. “I
think for those who think about pheasant hunting and the way the
landscape once was, everybody was able to grab their shotgun and
put on their boots and go walk the Back 40 and find a few
birds.”

That’s what the goal is in this state – “putting some habitat
back in the Back 40,” he said.

Like other continuous CRP practices, CP 38 targets smaller
parcels of the most sensitive land. It will help restore and
enhance habitat that benefits a variety of species, including many
that are threatened or endangered, according to USDA.

In Mississippi, for example, 7,950 acres will target Louisiana
and American black bears. And in North Dakota, enrollment of 20,000
acres will increase habitat for species like waterfowl.

CP 38 projects also have been approved in Colorado, Georgia,
Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and
Wisconsin.

“USDA is ushering in a new era in the history of the (CRP) by
making it even more focused, results-oriented, and community
based,” Conner said in a press statement.

In Minnesota, lands that will be eligible for CP38 are located
across most of the pheasant and prairie chicken range, Holland
said. The focus is on grassland, since grass and nesting cover is
the primary limiting factor for pheasant success. Landowners, in
some instances, also will have the opportunity to plant food plots
or blocks of winter cover.

“It’s designed to build up some of our existing habitat as well
as put block grass cover out there,” Holland said.

The main idea, according to Greg Anderson, of the state Farm
Service Agency, is “to enroll 10- to 40-acre blocks of eligible
acreage to create that wildlife habitat cover.” There are
exceptions to the 10-acre minimum, if, for example, the land is
next to existing cover like a cattail slough.

Some landowners who haven’t been eligible for some other
continuous CRP practices will be able to participate. Because it’s
a continuous sign-up, PF and others will be able to work with
landowners on a daily basis, which is a big plus, Nomsen said.

He said PF field staff would be pushing the program in an
aggressive manner, and believes there will be strong demand for
it.

The announcement is helpful, given escalating land prices and a
strong demand for additional commodity production. Nomsen is
hopeful the program will be economical attractive and viable.

“We’re in some pretty challenging times right nowŠ” he said.
“The pressures on CRP are like they’ve never been, overall. Here’s
a little bit of good news in contrast to all of that right
now.”

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