As of mid-January, Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices stopped accepting applications for the CP38 State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Bobwhite Quail project. Why you may (and should) ask? Because Missouri was rapidly approaching it’s acre allocation for this project. That means a lot of great habitat has been put on the landscape, or will be very soon, for bobwhite quail and many other species of wildlife!
The CP38 SAFE Bobwhite Quail Habitat Restoration Project (aka the Bobwhite SAFE) was originally approved on February 21, 2008, with an initial acreage allocation of 6,250 acres. Since then, the acreage allotment has been increased several times, with the latest coming near the end of 2012, adding an additional 7,400 acres and bringing the maximum enrollment in this practice to 25,050 acres. This practice was available in all Missouri counties and allowed producers to transform marginal cropland into high quality habitat, which included seeding a quail friendly grass/forb mix, establishing woody cover, and annually planting a wildlife food plot on 10 to 20% of the contract acres.
Some large requests for enrollments near the end of 2014 accelerated the exhaustion of available acres, probably due to the lack of a general CRP sign-up since the 45th Sign-up that ended in June of 2013 and the recent slippage in crop prices. When originally announced, the national SAFE initiative was to provide 1-million-acres to states who submitted eligible project proposals. FSA finished allocating those 1-million-acres to all states when Missouri received its final acreage allotment in 2012. It is not known whether more acres will be allocated to the SAFE initiative, however, Missouri plans to request additional acres as soon as FSA announces the opportunity to do so. There are still acres available in the Create and Protect Nesting Habitat for Missouri Grassland Birds Project (aka the Nesting Habitat Project), the At-Risk Species Missouri Sand Grassland Restoration Project (aka the Sand Prairie Project), and the Missouri Delta Stewardship Project. The Nesting Habitat Project is available in a few select counties in north-central and southwest Missouri, while both the Sand Prairie and Delta Stewardship Projects are only available in southeast Missouri counties. For a list of the counties included, take a look at FSA’s SAFE Fact Sheet, or contact your nearest Private Land Conservationist (PLC) or Quail Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist.
Luckily as one door closes, another one opens. FSA recently announced that center pivot corners would be eligible for enrollment in the CRP practice CP33 Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds beginning on January 26th, 2015. CP33, known by many as “Quail Buffers,” has been around since 2004. This practice enrolls the edges of crop fields into wildlife friendly field borders that are anywhere from 30 to 120 feet wide. The entirety of pivot corners have been allowed to be enrolled in the past, but at least 2 corners had to be enrolled and they had to be connected by a 30 foot buffer, meaning the producers usually had to give up some irrigated cropland. The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has been working for many years to remove this impediment to enrollment in some of our most agriculturally intense landscapes. With this change, individual pivot corners may now be enrolled without the connecting buffer. Missouri currently has an allocation of 47,300 acres that can be enrolled in CP33.