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Conner Unveils First Wildlife Plans In New Conservation Practice


Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner said today USDA has approved conservation projects on more than a quarter-million acres in 18 states under a new partnership within the Conservation Reserve Program.

Conner made the announcement during a news conference today at Pheasants Forever’s “Pheasant Fest” exhibition being held at the Saint Paul River Centre in St. Paul, Minn.

The projects unveiled today are the first to be approved under a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practice called SAFE, which stands for State Acres For wildlife Enhancement.

When USDA announced this program last year, it set the SAFE enrollment goal at 500,000 acres. Today’s announcement approves 45 projects for up to 259,776 of these acres as wildlife habitat for threatened, endangered and other high-priority species. SAFE, like other continuous CRP practices, targets smaller parcels of the most environmentally sensitive land to achieve maximum environmental benefit.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) state offices will announce sign-up for these SAFE projects soon. Landowners can enroll by visiting their local FSA service center. USDA will approve additional projects in the near future.

“USDA is ushering in a new era in the history of the Conservation Reserve Program by making it even more focused, results-oriented and community based,” said Conner. “These cooperative plans illustrate that, under the Bush Administration’s Cooperative Conservation Initiative, government works effectively with state and regional partners across the country to conserve natural resources and help protect America’s wildlife legacy for years to come.”

The 45 approved projects will help restore and enhance habitat to benefit a wide range of wildlife species, many of which are declining or threatened with extinction. In Maine, for example, enrolling 250 acres in York and Cumberland counties in CRP will help increase habitat for the New England cottontail rabbit, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

By enrolling more than 14,000 acres of agricultural land in CRP, conservation partners expect that the Texas Gulf Coast Prairies SAFE project will benefit the mottled duck, northern bobwhite quail, Attwater’s greater prairie chicken and numerous other bird species that are declining or of special conservation concern.

In Washington, conservation partners determined that enrolling 500 acres of the Olympic Peninsula in CRP will increase habitat and forage for the declining Olympic elk herd.

In Minnesota, Pheasants Forever and other project partners expect the enrollment of 23,100 acres in CRP will restore and enhance habitat for ring-necked pheasant populations, as well as benefit waterfowl, greater prairie chickens and other birds.

Projects are also approved for: Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. A fact sheet with summaries of all approved SAFE projects is at: .

Under SAFE, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners determined geographic areas where enrollment of farm land in CRP would benefit threatened, endangered or other high priority species. Project partners then developed conservation proposals that included enrolling land in the designated geographic areas in CRP using existing CRP practices for the benefit of specific species of concern. Last year, USDA accepted SAFE proposals developed by these organizations. FSA evaluated SAFE proposals to determine whether the selected practices would create the desired habitat. To be accepted by FSA, SAFE proposals had to be approved by qualified wildlife professionals and include a wildlife monitoring and evaluation plan.

SAFE is a wildlife management tool that helps state and regional agencies, non-profit organizations and others to address local wildlife objectives through habitat restoration. SAFE gives conservation partners the flexibility to create projects and install conservation practices that target the specific needs of high-value wildlife species. By developing SAFE projects, these organizations and their partners are enhancing the effectiveness of CRP by helping to establish higher-quality habitat and healthier ecosystems for species of concern and other wildlife. More information about SAFE is at: .

Under CRP, farmers and ranchers enroll eligible land in 10- to 15-year contracts with USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). FSA administers CRP on behalf of CCC. Participants plant appropriate cover such as grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. These plantings help prevent soil and nutrients from running into regional waterways and affecting water quality. The long-term vegetative cover also improves wildlife habitat and soil quality.


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