Iowa has received an additional 115,000 acres that can be enrolled in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for critical wildlife and water quality efforts.
For landowners who have general CRP contracts expiring in 2017, this may be their only opportunity to re-enroll existing CRP back into the program. It is not clear whether there will be a general CRP signup in 2017.
The State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program is part of the continuous CRP program with the goal of restoring high-priority wildlife habitat tailored to specific need. SAFE practices can be used to restore habitat for threatened and endangered species, species that have suffered significant population declines or species that provide significant social or economic value to the community.
Iowa’s existing SAFE programs, Gaining Ground SAFE – targeted to grassland birds and pollinators, and Pheasant Recovery SAFE – targeted at restoring pheasant habitat, each received additional allocations of 50,000 and 25,000 acres respectively. In addition to soil erosion prevention and water quality improvements, both SAFE projects provide an excellent opportunity for landowners to enroll land into CRP to establish quality wildlife habitat.
The Iowa DNR has created a webpage for landowners to learn more about federal and state programs available to them. The webpage includes a list of DNR staff who are experts at connecting landowners with programs and writing land management plans that benefit the landowner, wildlife and improve water quality. There is also a link to FSA where landowners can find information about their local FSA office. The landowner assistance webpage is at www.iowadnr.gov/crp.
In addition to the existing Iowa SAFE project announcements, an all-new SAFE project, called Iowa Early Successional Quail Habitat, has been approved for 40,000 acres.
The Iowa Early Successional Quail Habitat SAFE project, in addition to soil erosion prevention and water quality improvements, is designed to restore early successional habitat across Iowa’s southern quail range where it will be the most beneficial for bobwhite quail. This new SAFE will also be tremendously beneficial to native pollinators and Monarch butterflies.
Landowners may begin submitting applications on Jan. 9 for Gaining Ground SAFE and Pheasant Recovery SAFE. Applications for the new Quail Habitat SAFE will be accepted later in January.
A story by Bryan Hendricks on New Years Day in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette highlighted the recent approval of a multi-state “grasslands/bobwhite” proposal to NRCS and the potential impact of Arkansas’ $600,000 share.
NBCI led and coordinated the national effort to pull together the 9-state Working Lands For Wildlife grassland proposal to NRCS last summer, with Arkansas G&F being one of the most engaged state agencies in developing the national proposal. (NBCI also played a central coordination and support role for the multi-state pine savanna proposal submitted to NRCS at the same time. Both proposals were accepted by NRCS.)
These developments illuminate the value of all the state wildlife agencies and many other active supporters coming together and organizing under the auspices of the NBCI so that we can tackle opportunities and obstacles at regional and national scales.
NBCI, the 25 state wildlife management agencies that we represent and our other partners in conservation are pleased that FSA is providing these incentives that can benefit bobwhites and grassland birds by thinning and burning CRP pinelands.
JACKSON, Miss., Dec. 9, 2016 – In an effort to improve wildlife habitat and the health of private forest lands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced additional incentives available for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participants to actively manage forest lands enrolled in the program.
“Many CRP forests were initially established to conserve soil and protect water quality, but there is also a critical need to restore wildlife habitat” said Brad Pfaff, FSA Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs. “Over the years as trees grow and the forest canopy closes, the quality of wildlife habitat for many species declines. These new incentives are intended to reverse that trend, while also maintaining healthy forests.”
The announcement was made at a CRP forest site near Jackson, Miss. In addition to Pfaff, those in attendance included FSA Mississippi State Executive Director Michael R. Sullivan; Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Kurt Readus; and Office of Senator Thad Cochran Constituent Services Representative Jo Ann Clark.
Under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill, $10 million is available nationwide to eligible CRP participants. Those selected will be encouraged to thin, prescribe burn or otherwise manage their forests in order to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. This will encourage the development of grasses, forbs and legumes, benefitting numerous species including pollinators and grassland-dependent birds such as the northern bobwhite.
“The program is a win-win for landowners and wildlife as it supports enhanced wildlife habitat on lands already removed from agricultural production, while promoting forest sustainability, soil conservation, and water quality protection,” said Pfaff.
Eligibility is limited to landowners and agricultural producers already enrolled in CRP with conservation covers primarily containing trees. Incentive payments, not to exceed 150 percent of the cost to implement a particular customary forestry activity as described, have been established. CRP participants meeting eligibility requirements and interested in making offers to participate should visit their local FSA county office.
For more information about FSA conservation programs, visit the FSA office at the local USDA service center or go to www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation. To locate the nearest FSA office, go to http://offices.usda.gov.
United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service
Contact: Curt McDaniel, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
November 29, 2016
NEW FLORENCE, MO — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is adding the northern bobwhite to Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), the agency’s targeted, science-based effort to help producers restore and protect habitat for declining species on farms, ranches and working forests.
“Agriculture and wildlife both thrive together through landscape conservation,” said J.R. Flores, NRCS state conservationist in Missouri. “We’re working with farmers to make bobwhite-friendly improvements on working lands that will help the species and benefit farming operations.”
Two of the 11 new projects announced today by NRCS Chief Jason Weller at a farm in New Florence focus on helping farmers enhance early successional habitat to aid in the bobwhite’s recovery. Farmers in Missouri are part of the project that targets grasslands, where NRCS is working with producers to replace non-native grasses with native grasses, forbs and legumes that benefit bobwhite and other wildlife, while creating alternative healthy grazing options for livestock. Other states include in Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky.
When habitat is restored for the bobwhite, many other species benefit, including turkeys, deer, rabbits, and many different songbirds. NRCS uses the bobwhite and other wildlife as indicators of the health of the ecosystem at-large.
With more than two-thirds of the continental United States under private ownership, wildlife depend heavily on working lands for habitat and food. Projects focus on declining species that have needs compatible with agricultural practices and rural land management and that can benefit from conservation on private lands. See a full list of new projects.
So far, WLFW has helped producers restore 6.7 million acres of habitat for seven target species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined last year that Endangered Species Act protections were not necessary for these species largely because of the voluntary conservation efforts on working lands.
“The future of wildlife, agriculture and rural ways of life depend on our collective ability to transfer our Working Lands for Wildlife model to more species and working landscapes,” Flores said.
Through WLFW, NRCS strategically invests where conservation returns are highest and measures how wildlife respond to management activities to refine conservation efforts. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help producers adopt a variety of conservation practices on their land. NRCS staff help producers with a conservation plan and provide funding to cover part of the costs for adopting the practices. These practices are designed to benefit both the species and the agricultural operation.
To learn more about assistance opportunities, landowners should contact their local USDA service centers.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.
MANHATTAN, KS–The Fire Summit 2016: Changing Fire Regimes, a regional conference on fire science in the Great Plains, is set for Dec. 7-9 at the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center in Manhattan, Kansas.
“This meeting is for all landowners, fire managers, firefighters and agency personnel who work with fire in the Great Plains,” said Brian Hays, an associate director for the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. “Fire is an inherent component of grassland systems of the Great Plains, so there is a need to share current fire science and management with these individuals as well as with rural fire districts and emergency managers”
The Summit is funded through a grant from the USGS South Central Climate Science Center, awarded to the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University. The event is co-sponsored by the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, Kansas State University Research and Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, Joint Fire Science Program and the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange.
“The Great Plains Fire Science Exchange exists to assist land managers and the fire community to make sound decisions based on the best possible information,” said Carol Blocksome of the exchange. “Through the exchange and this conference, we hope to strengthen collaboration within the fire community in the region in addition to having information available for policy makers.”
“Fire professionals from around the country will discuss relevant topics impacting prescribed fire use,” said Barth Crouch with Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition.
John Weir of Oklahoma State University said ”Topics will include fire history in the Great Plains, smoke issues, fire success stories, state prescribed burning association reports, future directions for fire, fire policy, partnerships using fire and fire weather.”
“We will also discuss weather and climate and its impact on fire through time,” said Mark Shafer with the University of Oklahoma.
Speakers include professionals from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, Natural Resources Conservation Service and landowners among others.
Tickets are $100 for agency and university personnel and $40 for landowners and students. Interested individuals can register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fire-summit-2016-changing-fire-regimes-tickets-27490002337
The U.S. Geological Survey South Central Climate Science Center provided funding for this conference.
Introduced in the 1985 Farm Bill, CRP once supported 37 million acres devoted to conserving soil, water, and wildlife habitat. But Congress has reduced the size of the program to just 24 million acres in the most recent Farm Bill. Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is turning down thousands of CRP applications from those who want to enroll millions of private acres in conservation.
The user-friendly website and advocacy app at CRPworks.org allows supporters to add their names to a petition asking lawmakers to reverse this trend, explaining that “without a strong CRP, the northern plains states would lose much of their duck breeding habitat, greater sage grouse in the West would be at greater risk of population decline, and brook trout would disappear from Eastern headwaters. Without CRP, 40 million sportsmen and women would lose access to private hunting and fishing grounds across rural America.”
Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance, says, “Deer hunters know that CRP works for wildlife and habitat—we’ve got the big buck stories to prove it—so it’s important that sportsmen and women call for better investments in CRP and become a part of the solution, well ahead of the next Farm Bill. This website makes that process very easy.”
CRPworks.org will also house educational resources on the benefits of the program and the latest news about private land conservation. “CRP acres are often enrolled in access programs to provide public hunting and fishing opportunities on private lands, and where they’re not, CRP acres might provide critical wildlife habitat adjacent to the public lands that receive a lot of hunting pressure,” says Ariel Wiegard, agriculture and private lands policy director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This program has served as an important piece of landowners’ business plans and a vital part of working and wild landscapes for 30 years, so it deserves the attention of our lawmakers.”
July 24, 2016
In his opening statement last Wednesday as the new chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Fred Brown of Corning committed to restoring bobwhite quail in Arkansas.
Brown said he has just two priorities in his final year on the commission, and quail restoration is premier. To that end he and director Jeff Crow will assemble a quail task force, appointing commissioners Ken Reeves and Ford Overton as co-chairmen. Reeves, of Harrison, is a lifelong quail hunter who has been vocal and active about directing the commission’s attention to restoring native upland grassland habitat.
“We’ve talked about quail a great deal, but we haven’t done anything, really,” Brown said. “I don’t know if we can bring them back, but we won’t know unless we try.”
Brown cited two other restoration success stories as precedents.
“Elk were exterminated, and we brought them back,” Brown said. “The bear population was wiped out, and now it’s a huntable population.”
Brown said the two most junior commissioners, Joe Morgan of Little Rock and Bobby Martin of Rogers, will be the most important players.
“They have six and seven years left, so they have the most time to work on it,” Brown said.
Brown acknowledged that chronic wasting disease has absorbed much of the commission’s attention this year, but he said the agency is capable of handling multiple projects simultaneously.
“I know CWD hit the agency, and I commend Wildlife [management division] and other people that came in and helped them,” Brown said. “At the same time we’ve got other things going on, and we can do more than one thing at a time. We’re going to get on this quail habitat thing.”
Overton said that Morgan will be a crucial contributor to quail restoration.
“Probably nobody knows more about quail hunting than Joe Morgan,” Overton said. “That’s what he grew up doing.”
Read entire story HERE.
WOODLAND TOWNSHIP — In a forest clearing on a large cranberry farm, field technicians with New Jersey Audubon used electronic equipment to search for bobwhite quail.
The wild birds from Georgia were banded with electronic collars and released in the past two years, and a bobwhite nest was found earlier at the site, tucked inside tall grasses on a mound of topsoil.
It isn’t the prettiest or most natural part of Pine Island Cranberry Co.’s 14,000 non-cultivated acres in and around the Burlington County hamlet of Chatsworth. There are compost piles at the site, and a small airfield for agricultural planes.
But it’s the kind of disturbed habitat the bobwhite and other species, like prairie warblers, kestrels and pine snakes, love.
Read more about the NBCI member state’s project HERE.
MOBILE, Ala. (June 16, 2016) – A coalition of conservation experts, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies has announced the publication of a long-awaited five-year plan to stem the rapid decline of number of shortleaf pine-dominant forests. Released during the annual meeting of the Southern Group of State Foresters, the Shortleaf Pine Restoration Plan culminates two years of efforts by the Shortleaf Pine Initiative and is the first strategy produced to improve the shortleaf pine ecosystem across its entire range.
“This plan marks the first concrete steps in restoring these highly valuable shortleaf pine forestlands,” said Mike Black, director of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative. “Thanks to the work of our many partners, we now have a practical roadmap for restoration with scalable, achievable goals specifically tailored to the regional needs of the ecosystem.”
Shortleaf pine has a rich tradition as an important trade good in the history of the U.S., but due to poor management practices throughout the 1800s and competition from other tree species, the shortleaf pine range has dwindled from 70-80 millions in 1896 to a mere 6 million acres today. Ecosystems dominated by shortleaf pine also serve as an important habitat for five threatened or endangered species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, as well as 20 species of concern among conservationists.
Launched in the spring of 2013, the Shortleaf Pine Initiative is a collaborative, strategic and energetic response to the dramatic decline of shortleaf pine forests and associated habitats that once covered a vast area from eastern Texas to Florida and up the eastern seaboard to New Jersey. The Shortleaf Pine Initiative represents a broad range of public and private organizations as well as key state and federal agencies currently working in the shortleaf pine ecosystem.
You can read the plan HERE.
This past season Iowa’s quail hunters enjoyed their best hunting since 2007, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Hunters harvested an estimated 28,400 quail in 2015, which was a 165 percent increase over 2014. The large increase in quail harvest was predicted by the August roadside survey which counted the highest number of quail in 21 years.
“We expected to see more quail harvested based on the August roadside survey and our current trend of mild winters,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Bogenschutz uses a population model that considers total winter snowfall, and spring rainfall and temperature data to estimate winter survival and nesting success, plus the annual August roadside survey that counts actual pheasants, quail, cottontail, jackrabbit and partridge staff see along the 218 30-mile routes.
“We know, given certain snowfall and rainfall amounts, with a degree of certainty, how the upland populations are likely to react, based on 50 years of data. Given the mild winter and below normal rainfall, potential for upland birds looks good for the fall right now for the east central, southeast and south central regions. The western third had more rain and more snow so the potential looks less,” he said.
“Anecdotally, staff and landowners have been reporting more roosters crowing and male bobwhite calling across the southern third of Iowa this spring, which is a sign of good overwinter survival. The best predictor will be this August when we conduct our roadside survey. But I like the direction the model is pointing.”