Saint Paul, Minn. – May 5, 2008 – Despite the expiration of 79,677 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in Minnesota since October 1 of last year, interest in CRP remains as evidenced by the 6,365 acres already offered for enrollment in the new State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) conservation practice, the Minnesota Back Forty Pheasant Habitat program. As part of the continuous enrollment portion of CRP, Minnesota has been allocated 23,100 acres for enrollment in the Back Forty Pheasant Habitat program, which establishes small blocks of grassland (10-40 acres) and enhances existing habitats.
“Pheasants are part of the fabric of Minnesota farm country,” said Perry Aasness, State Executive Director of USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), “We are pleased to offer a flexible program that helps our producers help the pheasants and other farmland wildlife. Our early success speaks to our producer’s interest in wildlife and conservation and a program that is put together well.”
Announced this January, SAFE represents an important change to CRP that encourages state-specific wildlife focused projects. Minnesota’s Back Forty Pheasant SAFE program is targeted toward helping restore and enhance habitat for ring-necked pheasant populations, as well as benefit waterfowl, greater prairie chickens and other grassland nesting birds.
“To many, hunting pheasants was about heading out to the Back Forty, and this program rebuilds that habitat and will rekindle that tradition across the Minnesota pheasant range,” said Matt Holland, Pheasants Forever Senior Field Coordinator, “The early interest in this program indicates that despite record-level land and commodity prices and demand for additional commodity production, there’s still demand for conservation.”
Much of the interest in the SAFE program in Minnesota has been the result of Minnesota’s Farm Bill Assistance Partnership, which is a stateside effort designed to help farmers and landowners understand Farm Bill conservation programs and take advantage of the opportunities therein. Through this unique partnership, 21 Farm Bill biologists and technician positions are co-located in local USDA service centers in priority habitat areas throughout the pheasant range. This includes two Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists. Since 2003, the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership has worked with thousands of Minnesota landowners to help enroll or manage over 235,000 acres of wildlife habitat across the farmland region. Major partners include the Minnesota DNR, Minnesota BWSR, local SWCD’s, and Pheasants Forever.
In addition to the annual rental payment and cost-share, SAFE may offer participants an up front one-time CRP Signing Incentive Payment (SIP) of $100 per each SIP-eligible acre and a Practice Incentive Payment when cost share is made. Go to www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/mn_cp38e_factfheet_20080403.pdf for a fact sheet on the Minnesota SAFE. SAFE projects are available through USDA FSA service centers. 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.
Minnesota’s SAFE was developed in conjunction with many partners including FSA, Minnesota DNR, Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society; the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local Soil & Water Conservation Districts and The Nature Conservancy.
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.
For additional information about Pheasants Forever, please visit www.PheasantsForever.org