Daily Archives: July 16, 2015

USDA announces Conservation Incentives for working grass, range and pasture lands

 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that beginning Sept. 1, farmers and ranchers can apply for financial assistance to help conserve working grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while maintaining the areas as livestock grazing lands.

 

The initiative is part of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally funded program that for 30 years has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.

 

“A record 400 million acres and 600,000 producers and landowners are currently enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program has been one of the most successful conservation programs in the history of the country, and we are pleased to begin these grasslands incentives as we celebrate the program’s 30th year,” said Vilsack. “This is another great example of how agricultural production can work hand in hand with efforts to improve the environment and increase wildlife habitat.”

 

The CRP-Grasslands initiative will provide participants who establish long-term, resource-conserving covers with annual rental payments up to 75 percent of the grazing value of the land. Cost-share assistance also is available for up to 50 percent of the covers and other practices, such as cross fencing to support rotational grazing or improving pasture cover to benefit pollinators or other wildlife. Participants may still conduct common grazing practices, produce hay, mow, or harvest for seed production, conduct fire rehabilitation, and construct firebreaks and fences.

 

With the publication of the CRP regulation today, the Farm Service Agency will accept applications on an ongoing basis beginning Sept. 1, 2015, with those applications scored against published ranking criteria, and approved based on the competiveness of the offer. The ranking period will occur at least once per year and be announced at least 30 days prior to its start. The end of the first ranking period will be Nov. 20, 2015.

 

Later this week, USDA will also announce state-by-state allotments for the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). Through SAFE, also a CRP initiative, up to 400,000 acres of additional agricultural land across 37 states will be eligible for wildlife habitat restoration funding. The additional acres are part of an earlier CRP wildlife habitat announcement made by Secretary Vilsack. Currently, more than 1 million acres, representing 98 projects, are enrolled in SAFE.

 

To learn more about participating in CRP-Grasslands or SAFE, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp or consult with the local Farm Service Agency county office. To locate a nearby Farm Service Agency office, visit http://offices.usda.gov. To learn more about the 30th anniversary of CRP, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/CRPis30 or follow on Twitter using #CRPis30.

 

The CRP-Grasslands program was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Jewell, Vilsack urged to support bobwhite restoration efforts

 

National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) efforts to restore wild bobwhites across their historic range received a boost on the national stage recently when the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC) urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to essentially adopt NBCI’s strategies on lands they manage or influence. The WHHCC is a federally appointed group advising both departments and is composed of national hunting, conservation, industry and shooting sports leaders. The council said adoption and support of NBCI’s approach would “proactively avert problems that have occurred with other declining game bird species like Lesser Prairie-Chicken and Greater Sage-Grouse.” The council said while multi-state plans had been crafted to deal with those species because of the fear of an endangered species listing, that same situation with bobwhites could be avoided by being proactive. To reestablish bobwhites in their historic agricultural and forested settings, the council offered four strategies:

  • establish diverse native grasslands and wildflowers on idled acres of marginal croplands and other rural landscapes
  • convert up to one-third of existing tame pasture acreage to native forage grasses good for cows and quail
  • actively manage pine and oak forests on private and public lands with a goal of promoting early successional forest/grassland habitats, including timber thinning followed by routine prescribed fire to restore open forest savannas
  • mobilize Department of the Interior and Agriculture personnel to support widespread restoration of habitat for bobwhites, other grassland birds and pollinator species

“…now is the time for federal actions to prevent future ‘listing anxiety’,” wrote John Tomke, council chairman. “Your departments have the opportunity to ensure the restoration of habitat for bobwhite quail, other declining grassland birds and pollinators on private croplands, rangelands and forest lands. In addition, many National Forests, National Parks, National Battlefields, Military Parks and National Wildlife Refuges are ideal places …”

 

“The council is spot-on when they say these federal agencies can have a huge impact on populations of bobwhites, other grassland birds and pollinators on both private and public lands,” said NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “We appreciate the council’s support and would welcome proactive participation by both the Interior and Agriculture departments.”

 

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, NBCI is an initiative of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) to elevate northern bobwhite recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a coordinated, range-wide leadership endeavor. The committee is comprised of representatives of 25 state wildlife agencies, various academic research institutions and private conservation organizations. Support for NBCI is provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program, state wildlife agencies, the University of Tennessee and Park Cities Quail. For more information, please visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org and find us on Facebook, YouTube and Slideshare.

$1.1 Billion from Pittman Robertson-Dingell Johnson funding

 

From The Birding Wire

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will distribute $1.1 billion in revenues generated by the hunting and angling industry to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies throughout the nation. The funds support critical fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects that benefit all Americans.

The Service apportions the funds to all 50 states and U.S. territories through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs. Revenues come from excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment, electric boat motors, and from taxes on the purchase of motorboat fuel.

“These funds are the cornerstone of state-based efforts that are critical to the preservation of America’s wildlife and natural resources,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “But they are also the fuel for a massive financial engine that benefits outdoor recreationists, hunters, boaters and anglers, equipment manufacturers and retailers, and local and regional economies. Their value cannot be overstated in providing opportunities for the next generation of Americans to get outdoors, experience our wild places and learn the importance of conserving our natural heritage.”

Pittman Robertson-Dingell Johnson funds are distributed by the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program. Since their inception, the programs have generated more than $15 billion to conserve fish and wildlife resources and support outdoor recreation opportunities for the American public. The recipient State fish and wildlife agencies have matched these funds with more than $5 billion over the years, mostly through hunting and fishing license revenues.

“The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program provides critical funding for conservation projects and outdoor recreation activities across this great nation,” said Assistant Director Hannibal Bolton of the Service’s WSFR program. “I can’t stress enough that the key to the program’s success is through our dedicated partnerships with State agencies, non-government organizations and many others.”

“It is thanks to this significant financial investment made by America’s sportsmen and women and the hunting, shooting sports, angling and boating industries that state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies can deliver science-based conservation on the ground,” said Larry Voyles, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies President and Arizona Game and Fish Department Director. “The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program has made the difference between the survival and abundance of some species and it helps agencies, like mine, manage a vast estate of lands and waters and connect more people to wildlife-related recreation.”

Below is a listing of surrounding states of the Service’s final apportionment of Wildlife Restoration Funds and Sport Fish Restoration funds for Fiscal Year 2015. To learn more about the Service’s WSFR program visit: http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/.

 

State                             Apportionment

ARKANSAS               $19,403,525

COLORADO               $28,516,034

IOWA                          $16,502,569

KANSAS                     $19,984,814

MISSOURI                  $29,783,609

NEBRASKA                $17,608,725

NEW MEXICO           $22,125,164

OKLAHOMA              $25,729,133