Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the reallocation of 153,972 acres available through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative entitled State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), to support conservation and restoration of important habitat for lesser prairie chickens, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, and other grassland, sage or prairie-dependent species. SAFE projects are located in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas.
"USDA is reallocating available SAFE acres in order to meet habitat goals for the lesser prairie chicken, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, and other priority species of concern." Vilsack said. "Through our conservation programs, USDA is committed to restoring habitat for wildlife and preserving our natural resources and outdoor traditions for future generations to enjoy."
Today's announcement is part of a broader USDA effort to support conservation and restoration of important habitats for wildlife. Also today, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that more than 150 Northern Plains farmers and ranchers have applied for a new initiative designed to enhance migratory bird habitat, improve water quality and the health of grasslands in the Prairie Pothole Region of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. Additionally, FSA and the Quality Deer Management Association today renewed their collaborative commitment to enhance habitat for white-tailed deer and other wildlife with the signing of a cooperative agreement.
SAFE is a continuous CRP practice that conserves and restores habitat for wildlife species that are threatened or endangered, have suffered significant population declines or are important environmentally, economically or socially.
Today's announcement supports efforts to give attention to the lesser prairie chicken, sage grouse and other important wildlife concerns and related conservation initiatives of the USDA. SAFE is currently capped at 850,000 acres nationally. Acres are now allocated across 90 SAFE projects located in 35 states and Puerto Rico.
Under SAFE, state fish and wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners work collaboratively to target CRP delivery to specific conservation practices and geographic areas where enrollment of eligible farm land in continuous CRP will provide significant wildlife value, especially for threatened and endangered species and other environmental, economic, and social benefits. USDA monitors SAFE and other continuous CRP activity and manages available acres to ensure that CRP goals and objectives are being met.
Farmers and ranchers may enroll eligible land in CRP under 10- to 15-year contracts with the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Participants plant appropriate cover such as grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. These plantings help conserve and improve soil and prevent sediment and nutrients from running into waterways and affecting water quality. The long-term vegetative cover also enhances wildlife habitat. CRP has been credited with being an important contributor to retaining sage grouse habitat and increasing waterfowl populations in the prairie pothole region of the country.
This year represents the 25th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program.
For more information on SAFE, contact a local FSA county office or visit the FSA website at http://www.usda.fsa.gov/crp.