WASHINGTON – The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today commended a move by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund important private-lands conservation programs that help sustain valuable fish and wildlife habitat and enable access by hunters and anglers. The USDA final draft crop insurance agreement invests billions of dollars in critical Farm Bill components such as the Conservation Reserve Program, America’s largest and most successful agricultural-lands conservation program.20080805_fp_logo

The USDA decision generates $6 billion in savings, one-third of which will be dedicated toward deliverables that include increasing the enrollment acreage of the Conservation Reserve Program to the maximum authorized level of 32 million acres. The monies also will be invested in new and amended Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program initiatives and CRP monitoring.

“This far-reaching decision by the USDA marks a victory for agricultural-lands conservation and the sportsmen-conservation community,” said Tom Franklin, TRCP director of policy and government relations. “These Farm Bill programs are crucial to our country’s ability to sustain private-lands fish and wildlife habitat – habitat that forms the bedrock of outdoor sporting traditions for millions of Americans.”

The Farm Bill is one of the nation’s most important pieces of legislation for soil and water quality and the fish and wildlife that require high-quality habitat. Its Conservation Reserve Program encourages farmers and ranchers to plant ground cover that bolsters soil, water and wildlife resources, improving habitat for waterfowl, upland birds and wild turkeys, and facilitates installation of filter strips and riparian buffers, sustaining water quality by reducing sedimentation and chemical runoff. Through the CRP, private landowners have restored 2 million acres of wetlands and adjacent buffers and conserved 170,000 miles of streams, resulting in the annual production of 13.5 million pheasants nationwide and 2.2 million ducks in the Prairie Pothole region.

“The TRCP and our partners consistently have championed key components of the Farm Bill such as the Conservation Reserve Program,” Franklin continued, “and we appreciate the federal government’s willingness to invest in efforts that remain a priority for hunters and anglers.”

Yet the TRCP voiced continued concern about delays by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in releasing regulations and funding for the Voluntary Access and Habitat Incentive Program, or “Open Fields,” which was authorized by Congress for the first time in the 2008 Farm Bill. Open Fields provides states $50 million in federal funds to create or enhance hunter-access programs on private lands and has been a flagship issue for the TRCP since the group’s inception.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work on the Farm Bill.

Read the TRCP report “Growing Conservation in the Farm Bill.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.