Pheasants Forever and USDA Renew Commitment to Conserve Habitat for Upland Birds
March 5, 2015
This story by Val Dolcini, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency, originally appeared here on the USDA blog.
The following blog by the FSA Administrator highlights the benefits of working with private landowners to protect habitat for upland birds, like sage grouse, as well as a host of other wildlife that depend upon healthy soil and water. The Sage Grouse Initiative and our partners use a host of tools funded through the Farm Bill–including the Conservation Reserve Program discussed below–to restore and protect the sagebrush sea. We are thrilled that key SGI partner Pheasants Forever signed on with the USDA to continue important proactive conservation efforts!
I recently attended the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met with sportsmen, farmers, young people, wildlife biologists and others who are committed to strengthening wildlife habitat throughout America. It was exciting to see firsthand the passion for the native and restored grasslands and woodlands that typify the rural American landscape.
I had the honor of speaking to the group, where I highlighted the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP, one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the nation, is designed to reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. Interested landowners can establish long-term USDA-approved grasses or trees in exchange for USDA helping with the cost of establishing the plants and providing annual payments for 10 to 15 years. The vegetation along fields, streams and rivers prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
Since its enactment in 1985, CRP has prevented more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, protected more than 170,000 stream miles with riparian and grass buffers, and provided more than 100,000 acres of bottomland hardwood trees and nearly 300,000 acres of flood-plain wetlands. It has also created more than 250,000 acres each for duck nesting habitat and upland bird habitat.
Although this is a federal program, this 30-year record of accomplishment was not achieved by USDA alone. Partnerships with state, local, and nongovernmental organizations are the foundation upon which these important achievements have been built.
That’s why I joined Howard Vincent, Pheasant Forever and Quail Forever’s President and Chief Executive Officer, in signing an agreement to continue the longtime framework of cooperation between Pheasants Forever and USDA agencies, including the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to maintain and enhance pheasant, quail, and other wildlife habitat on private and public lands. These joint efforts include habitat conservation and restoration, scientific assistance, educational materials, and research collaboration. In addition, this five-year commitment helps support Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill biologist program at local USDA offices nationwide.
Given the strong relationships Pheasants Forever has with farmers and ranchers across the country, including their significant contribution toward the successful sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken initiatives launched by USDA, we are pleased to renew our partnership.
On behalf of my colleagues at USDA, I want to thank everyone who plays a role in making conservation programs like CRP so successful, and for helping make rural America, with its diverse flora and fauna, its abundant natural resources and its beautiful natural landscapes, better than we have ever known.
CRP was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill. To learn more about the 2014 Farm Bill or the Conservation Reserve Program please visit www.usda.gov/farmbill or www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation. To find your local USDA Service Center please visit http://offices.usda.gov.
The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.