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 Forever’s recent
Pheasant Fest that nearly 260,000 acres in 18 states including
Michigan could be restored and enhanced under Conservation Practice
38, also known as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement. SAFE is a
continuous CRP practice that will focus on providing habitat for
species such as pheasants, quail, 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.
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 the 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, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and
“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 Michigan, about 7,500 acres in 18 counties will be targeted
for nesting grasslands, mainly for pheasants and quail.
“This is truly going to be an amazing program,” said Mike
Parker, PF’s Michigan biologist. “My thoughts from the start were
that this is going to be a great opportunity to help
Michigan lands that will be eligible for CP 38 enrollment are
located mainly in the south-central part of the state, according to
Parker. The focus is on grassland, since lack of 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.
“Michigan’s new SAFE proposal,” Parker said, “offers landowners
a great opportunity to provide pheasants and quail exactly what the
birds typically lack in Michigan – large blocks of high-quality
nesting and brood-rearing habitat. Plant the grass and the birds
According to Parker, declines in habitat have led to declines in
species and wildlife diversity. Breeding Bird Survey routes during
the period 1966-2004 revealed that pheasants, quail, and other
grassland species have declined in Michigan. The major limiting
factor is a lack of suitable nesting and brood-rearing habitat.
SAFE won’t just assist pheasants and quail. Providing 7,500
acres of diverse prairie will benefit a variety of rare or
declining species and species of significant social importance,
including Bobolinks, eastern box turtles, eastern hog-nosed snakes,
Eastern wild turkeys, grasshopper sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, and
Karner blue butterflies. SAFE practices will focus on planting
prairies and savannas because they support a greater number of rare
and declining species than any other single terrestrial habitat
type in Michigan.
The counties included in the program are Barry, Kalamazoo, St.
Joseph, Calhoun, Branch, Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee,
Monroe, Livingston, Shiawassee, Genessee, Lapeer, Ionia, Clinton,
Eaton, and Ingham
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
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 now Š” 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