Saint Paul, Minn. – January 19, 2008 – Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture Acting Secretary Chuck Conner announced an important change to the Conservation Reserve Program that will encourage state-specific wildlife focused projects. Speaking before attendees at National Pheasant Fest 2008, Secretary Conner announced approval for 45 State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement or SAFE proposals covering 259,776 acres in 18 states. The SAFE projects will be available through USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) service centers as part of the ongoing continuous sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program.
The Minnesota approved SAFE practice, called the “Minnesota Back Forty” is specifically targeted at improving habitat for ring-necked pheasants and had been allocated 23,100 acres in the CRP. Other states approved SAFE’s target bobwhite quail and black bears in Mississippi, Roosevelt elk in Washington, Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse in Idaho, and numerous others. According to Secretary Conner, actual enrollment will start shortly and additional SAFE proposals will be approved shortly toward the goal to approve 500,000 acres nationwide.
Reacting to the Secretary’s announcement, vice-president of governmental affairs, Dave Nomsen noted, “Today’s announcement represents a watershed moment for wildlife conservation in association with the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). First authorized in 1985, CRP has evolved to become a true soil, water, and wildlife conservation program and today’s announcement clearly elevated wildlife as a co-equal priority. CRP’s wildlife legacy has been well documented for pheasants, waterfowl, and other species of wildlife. Today we were given a valuable tool to ensure those benefits continue not only for pheasants, but for many other species of wildlife; including bobwhite quail which is in critical need of an announcement like this one.”
“This announcement is particularly important in light of greatly escalating land and crop prices and strong demand for additional commodity production. We are pleased to see both Signing and Practice Incentive Payments included to help make participation in the voluntary program more economically viable,” continued Nomsen.
The vast majority of CRP’s wildlife benefits have historically accrued to the competitive general CRP signups. While it remains true that many wildlife benefits will continue to be associated with a fully enrolled CRP and general signups, I don’t want to discount the importance of today’s announcement as it may relate to future wildlife benefits. The SAFE concept will give us the ability to target wildlife conservation on America’s farms. At Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, we appreciate that once enrollment begins in the coming weeks, we will have an opportunity to work with wildlife-minded farmers and landowners on a daily basis asopposed to waiting for periodic general CRP signup periods.