Lincoln, Neb. – May 16, 2008 – On Monday, May 19th, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will open enrollment for Nebraska’s new State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program. Part of the continuous enrollment portion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Nebraska’s two approved SAFE projects allocate nearly 23,000 acres targeted to enhance and expand habitat for pheasant, quail and greater prairie chickens.
Announced this January at Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest, SAFE represents an important change to CRP that encourages state-specific wildlife focused projects. Nebraska’s SAFE projects – the Nebraska Upland Birds SAFE and the Nebraska Tallgrass SAFE – offer producers more competitive rental rates than general CRP and additional incentive payments.
Pheasants Forever (PF) has six Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists ready to assist landowners with the new SAFE projects and other conservation programs. Through a unique partnership with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission and Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists are located in local USDA service centers in Nebraska. “These Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists are great resources that can help landowners meet their personal habitat goals,” said Pete Berthelsen, Senior Field Coordinator for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “They are available to offer landowner ‘one-stop-shopping’ for all their conservation program needs.”
Berthelsen added that despite record-level land and commodity prices and demand for additional commodity production, not to mention the expiration of 92,000 Nebraska CRP acres last fall, early interest in SAFE from farmers and landowners appears very high. “These SAFE projects are competitive programs that we know will be very successful for landowners and wildlife, and we expect the acreage enrollment to fill very quickly,” Berthelsen said. South Dakota’s 20,000 acre SAFE allotment filled up in less than two weeks in April, and Minnesota’s program is also up and going strong with high landowner interest.
Nebraska Upland Birds SAFE
The goal of the Nebraska Upland Birds SAFE is to enroll 11,450 acres to enhance habitat for upland wildlife such as upland game birds, including northern bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasant. The project seeks the conversion of cropland areas to habitat. For nesting upland game birds and grassland songbirds, patches of habitat are preferred to strips or buffers. Patches of habitat and wider buffers (>100 feet wide) are preferred for nesting and have reduced predation as compared to narrow strips or buffers enrolled at minimum widths (30 feet or less). Additional wildlife benefits will be achieved by designing patches of habitat that incorporate multiple plantings (e.g. nesting cover, brood-rearing cover, winter cover), to better meet the year-round needs of wildlife within individual patches of cover. These small areas will also benefit grassland-breeding songbirds. Additionally, acres enrolled in the SAFE program will improve water quality and reduce soil erosion. The project area is statewide.
Nebraska Tallgrass SAFE
The goal of the Nebraska Tallgrass SAFE is to enroll 11,450 acres to expand habitat in Nebraska’s tallgrass prairie region for greater prairie chickens. This project targets the conversion of cropland to suitable blocks of perennial herbaceous cover and the retention, and enhancement, of existing blocks of land enrolled in CRP. The land will provide all habitat needs including nesting, brood rearing, winter roosting and escape cover for greater prairie chickens. The land will also benefit a variety of other upland game birds and grassland breeding songbirds. Diverse mixes of grasses and forbs will provide nesting for a variety of wildlife including game birds (ring-necked pheasants, wild turkeys) and non-game birds of conservation interest in Nebraska (Henslow’s sparrow). Acres enrolled in SAFE will also improve water quality and reduce soil erosion. SAFE for habitat for greater prairie chickens in tallgrass prairie is offered in 10 northeast NE counties (Knox, Cedar, Dixon, Antelope, Pierce, Wayne, Boone, Madison, Stanton and Nance) as well as 12 southeast NE counties (Nuckolls, Fillmore, Thayer, Saline, Jefferson, Lancaster, Gage, Pawnee, Richardson, Johnson, Nemaha and Otoe).
State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE)
- The SAFE acres will be continuous sign-up process until acre or funding limits are met. In other words, first-come, first-served on program enrollment.
- CRP lands in contracts soon to expire can be reenrolled into these programs.
- Eligible projects include: Center pivot irrigation field corners, field borders, portions of fields and odd areas.
- This program will offer landowners as much as a 90% cost share on practice establishment.
- This program will offer landowner a $100 per acre incentive payment with project signup.
- This program offers landowners new rental rates based on updated soil rental rates.
- For additional information and application assistance regarding SAFE, please contact your local USDA service center or visit www.pheasantsforever.org/page/1/FarmBillBiologists.jsp to find your local Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. PF/QF has more than 127,000 members in 700 local chapters across the continent.