Monthly Archives: August 2015

Youth invited to opening-day dove hunt

 

The Jayhawk Chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (QUWF) in Lawrence and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) invite youth age 16 and younger to register for their 8th Annual Youth Dove Hunt. The Sept. 1 opening-day hunt will begin at 3 p.m. Mentors will accompany all participants, but non-hunting family members are encouraged to attend, as well.

 

Non-toxic shells and eye and ear protection will be provided to participants, who are encouraged to dress in camouflage or dark-colored clothing. Shotguns may be provided upon request.

For location details, and to register, contact QUWF member Dr. John Hill at (785) 841-9555, or by e-mail at [email protected].

 

Participants who are 16 must have a Kansas hunting license, unless exempt by law, and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit. For more information, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Services / Education / Hunter.”

 

The dove season is Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and Nov. 7-15. For information regarding migratory bird hunting regulations, license and stamp requirements, legal methods of take, non-toxic shot and more, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting / Migratory Birds / Federal Migratory Bird Regulations.”

 

Now is the time for hunter education

 

Fall hunting seasons are just around the corner. That also means school is about to start, holidays are on the way, and finding free time isn’t going to be easy. If signing up for a Kansas Hunter Education course is on your to-do list, now is the time to make it happen.

 

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is currently offering Hunter Education classes throughout the state, providing a variety of class times, formats, and locations to meet nearly any schedule. To view a current list of upcoming classes, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting” and then “Hunter Education.”

 

Kansas law states that anyone born on or after July 1, 1957 must be certified by an approved course in hunter education before they can hunt in Kansas, except that anyone 15 or younger may hunt without hunter education certification provided they are under the direct supervision of an adult 18 or older. Students must be 11 or older to be certified.

 

Subjects covered include hunter responsibility, ethics, fair chase, history of firearms, firearms basics, ammunition, basic gun safety, field safety, bowhunting, conservation and wildlife management, wildlife of Kansas, outdoor emergencies, Kansas hunting regulations and boating safety for hunters.

 

Courses are offered in one of two formats: traditional and Internet-assisted. Traditional hunter education courses are 10 hours long, typically in a classroom setting, and are usually held over the course of two to three days. Internet-assisted courses are designed to meet the needs of individuals with busy schedules by providing online classwork that can be done at home. After the Internet work is completed, students must attend a field day, which often includes live-fire, trail-walk and safe gun handing exercises before final testing and certification. Students must register for an Internet-assisted course before completing the online portion.

 

Classes fill up quickly and hunting season will be here before you know it. Invest time in a class now, so you can be ready to enjoy opening day.

 

Angler instructor course at Dodge City August 19

 

If you’re passionate about fishing and you believe that every child should have the opportunity to experience it, consider becoming one of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) volunteer angler education instructors.

 

A one-day Angler Education Instructor Certification Course, hosted by KDWPT and Fishing’s Future, will outfit anglers with the tools necessary to work with children and host classes and clinics. The course will be held Wednesday, August 19 at Dodge City High School, 2201 Ross Blvd, at 6:30 p.m. There is no cost to attend.

 

Attendees will learn about current fishing regulations, species identification, fishing ethics, equipment, knot-tying, casting, fish habitat, aquatic nuisance species, and conservation practices. Apart from being certified, anglers will also receive sample curriculums for running classes.

 

One way in which certified angler education instructors can utilize their skills is by leading a local high school fishing club. Many Kansas high schools have already implemented similar programs, but there is a need for interested and qualified instructors to help with schools that don’t have fishing clubs. Certified instructors may even be eligible to receive fishing supplies, including poles and bait, from KDWPT at no cost. Fishing license fees for students 16 and older may also be waived for agency-approved events with prior agency approval.

 

For more information, contact Phil Taunton at (620) 794-5373 or Fishing’s Future coordinator Kevin Reich at [email protected] or (785) 577-6921.

 

Cover Crop survey confirms benefits and points to future research

 

For the third year in a row, the results of an annual cover crop survey of farmers around the country confirm the benefits and expansion of cover crops on U.S. cropland.

 

USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program recently released the results of the 2014-2015 Cover Crop Survey, which assessed the benefits, challenges, and scale of adoption of cover crops, as well as demand for cover crop seed across the United States. The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) conducted the Cover Crop Survey with funding from USDA’s SARE program and the American Seed Trade Association.

 

This year’s online survey had more than 2,472 people answer at least some portion of the survey questions, and had complete responses from 1,229 respondents, which represented 47 states. Of the 1,702 farmers who responded to question of whether they had ever used cover crops on their farm, 84 percent reported that they had.

 

The results of the survey confirm that farmers are seeing multiple benefits from cover crops, including increased yields of corn and soybeans following the use of a cover crop. When a cover crop was planted before corn, corn yields increased by an average of 3.7 bushels per acre, or 2.1 percent. Farmers who planted a cover crop before planting soybeans saw an average soybean yield increase of 2.2 bushels per acre, or 4.2 percent.

 

These yield increases, while significant, are slightly lower than the yield increases found in last year’s Cover Crop Survey (3.1 percent for corn, and 4.3 percent for soy), and are lower than the 2012-2013 Cover Crop Survey yield increases (9.6 percent for corn, and 11.6 percent for soy). This large increase in yield benefits from cover crops following a drought year like 2012 can be explained by the enhanced water retention and increased soil organic matter that occurs on the working lands using cover crops.

 

Chad Watts, the CTIC program director, points out that many of the nutrient benefits of cover crops—including capturing nutrients before they leach from the root zone, fixing atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, and cycling nutrients for use by later cash crops—remain under-appreciated even by long-time cover crop fans. This “shows us that we have more work to do in communicating these nutrient management benefits.”

 

Insights amongst Non-Users

 

Cover_Crops_Premiums

2014-2015 SARE Cover Crops Survey, page 34.

 

Several key findings from this year’s study give valuable insight to policymakers and others into the motivations and factors that non-users say could drive them to adopt cover crops in the future. These include:

  • Ninety-two percent of the farmers who do not currently plant cover crops say economic incentives would somewhat or always influence cover crop adoption. Similarly, while about half (46 percent) of cover crop users say they would be motivated to plant more cover crops if the practice reduced their crop insurance premiums, that number increases to 70 percent of non-users who said reduced crop insurance premiums could or would influence them to plant cover crops.
  • Nearly three-quarters of cover crop users said the market outlook for cash crop prices would have little to no impact on their decision to plant cover crops, which challenges the assumption that cover crop use is closely tied to commodity prices.

 

Key Findings

According to the 2015 SARE Cover Crop Survey, the three most-cited benefits among cover crop users of using cover crops were: increased overall soil health (22 percent of respondents), increased soil organic matter (20 percent of respondents), and reduced soil erosion (15 percent of respondents).

 

Average_Cover_Crop_Respondent

2014-2015 SARE Cover Crops Survey, page 9.

 

Key findings of the SARE survey include:

  • The mean amount of experience with cover crops among cover crop users was 7.33 years, based on 1,366 responses to this specific question.
  • Cover crop users in this survey projected an average cover crop acreage of 300 acres expected to plant in 2015. Those farmers also reported planting an average of 259 acres in cover crops in 2014 and an average of 225 acres in 2013 – which depicts a steady and significant increase in cover crops on their farms in the past few years, despite lower commodity prices.
  • For cover crop non-users, the vast majority of these farmers who responded to the survey employ some type of conservation tillage. Almost 25 percent of the 238 non-users employ continuous no-till, 21 percent use no-till in rotation, 20 percent report using reduced tillage methods, and 7 percent use only vertical tillage. The remaining 28 percent use conventional, full-width tillage.
  • When considering cover crop species, cereal grains and grasses were the most used cover crops, planted by 84 percent of the 1,287 cover crop users who answered this specific question. The leading species of cover crop was cereal rye, which accounted for 44 percent of the total 2014 cover crop acres planted and the same percentage projected for 2015 in this survey. Annual ryegrass was the second most widely used species, at 23 percent of the total cover crop acres planted in 2014 and the same percentage projected for 2015.
  • 57 percent of the 1,251 respondents reported planting legume cover crops in 2014, with crimson clover as the leading species, at 18 percent of the acres planted in 2014. Other top legume species included winter peas (9 percent of the 2014 acreage), cowpea (6 percent of the 2014 acreage), and red clover (5 percent of the 2014 acreage).
  • Cover crop mixes were extremely popular. Of 1,233 respondents who answered a question about planting mixes in 2014 or 2015, 67 percent said they had or would. Cover crop mixes of four or more species were most popular, representing 62,255 acres (26.3 percent) of respondents’ land in 2014 and projected to increase by 31 percent to cover 81,685 acres in 2015.
  • The most popular source of cover crop seed among 1,360 cover crop users was “company specializing in cover crop seed sales,” at 36 percent of farmer respondents, followed by “ag input retailers” at 31 percent of farmer respondents. Less common sources were “commodity crop seed dealers” with 13 percent, “another farmer” with 12 percent, and “other” with 9 percent. This year was the first time the survey addressed questions about sourcing for cover crop seed, and these results can help predict buying behavior and business opportunities for cover crop seed specialists moving forward.
  • The large majority of respondents are very conscious about the quality of their cover crop seed, seen from the results of the survey question regarding which information on cover crop seed tags was most important. Germination rate led the list with 30 percent; noxious weed content at 29 percent; and purity at 28 percent. Only 9 percent said they do not consider the information on the seed tag.
  • Row crop producers identified herbicide as their primary cover crop termination method, at 59 percent of the 934 respondents. Non-chemical means of cover crop termination are more popular amongst vegetable/horticulture crop producers, with nearly half – 49 percent of 269 farmers who answered the question – employing tillage as the primary means of termination.

 

The Importance of Cover Crops

In addition to the benefits of cover crops described above, research continues to explore the role of cover crops for extreme weather risk management, which is increasingly important due to climate change impacts. Healthy soils are crucial to combating the devastating effects of increased flooding, droughts, and unexpected weather events that we are seeing all over the country. Cover crops work to counter these risks through reducing soil compaction, increasing water retention and infiltration, reducing soil erosion from both wind and water, improving soil organic matter, and sequestering nitrogen. According to USDA NRCS, for each 1 percent increase in soil organic matter, U.S. cropland could store the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in 150 days.

 

The increasing popularity of cover crops has been driven by the important work that SARE has been doing for many years to evaluate, analyze and publicize the benefits of cover cropping. We will continue to partner with USDA and other organizations to promote the widespread adoption of cover crops and advocate for important programs such as SARE.

Sportsmen’s coalition defends federal fracking rule

 

SFRED: Time to modernize 30-year-old rule to protect fish, wildlife, water

As a new federal fracking rule continues to come under fire, a national sportsmen’s coalition is defending it as a commonsense update of 30-year-old regulations aimed at safeguarding fish, wildlife, water and other valuable resources on our public lands.

The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition reacted Wednesday to criticisms aired during a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The updated regulations for national public lands, released by the Bureau of Land Management in March, are intended to complement state regulations to ensure that fracking fluids and wastewater are handled safely; well casings are strong enough to stand the high-pressure fluids; and that companies disclose what chemicals they’re injecting underground.

“As the technology has advanced, where and how fracking occurs has changed dramatically in just the last 10 years while rules to safeguard our water and wildlife have not been updated for more than three decades. The BLM’s new rule is a reasonable upgrade to ensure there’s a minimum standard for national public lands that are managed for a number of uses, including hunting, fishing and recreation,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director.

Corey Fisher, the energy team lead for Trout Unlimited, noted that a recent Environment Protection Agency study of existing data on fracking revealed gaps in information, including the frequency of on-site spills, but did point out potential vulnerabilities to water sources such as inadequate well casings and spills of fracking wastewater.

“The BLM’s new fracking rule includes important changes to protect water quality, such as robust well-casing standards and the requirement that wastewater be stored in tanks rather than pits, which are more vulnerable to leaks and spills,” Fisher said. “These changes help address potential impacts to water resources on public lands. The EPA study makes clear the science hasn’t kept pace with the scale and scope of hydraulic fracturing. More study is needed, additional monitoring is necessary, and documented impacts necessitate a cautious approach and risk management that emphasizes avoiding impacts altogether.”

The BLM has said that where rules are at least as strong as the federal regulations, states can request a variance and companies can carry on as they have. The rule also applies to tribal lands. However, the fracking rule is on hold as a federal judge considers a challenge to the rule by the states of Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah and trade associations.

“The SFRED coalition appreciates that some of the biggest oil- and gas-producing states have taken steps to strengthen their rules and that many companies are responsible operators. However, it takes just one bad operator to seriously damage an aquifer or foul waterways that are vital to wildlife and communities,” said Ed Arnett senior scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The federal fracking rule is a crucial safeguard in states without their own rules—about half the 32 states with drilling on public lands, according to the BLM. It is important that we have a minimum national standard for lands that are managed for multiple purposes and are, in fact, owned by all Americans.”

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 1500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

 

Outlook promising for duck hunters this season

 

According the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2015 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations survey, overall duck numbers remain strong as we enter the 2015-2016 hunting seasons. The USFWS stated that total populations were estimated at 49.5 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is 43 percent above the 1955-2014 long-term average and the highest count on record. Last year’s estimate was 49.2 million birds.

 

According to the report, current species estimates are as follows:

Blue-winged teal: 8.5 million, 73 percent above the long-term average.

Green-winged teal: 4.1 million, 98 percent above the long-term average.

Northern shoveler: 4.4 million, 75 percent above the long-term average.

Northern pintail: 3.0 million, 24 percent below the long-term average.

Mallard: 11.6 million, 51 percent above the long-term average.

Gadwall: 3.8 million, 100 percent above the long-term average.

American wigeon: 3.0 million, 17 percent above the long-term average.

Redhead: 1.2 million, 71 percent above the long-term average.

Canvasback: 0.76 million, 30 percent above the long-term average.

Scaup: 4.4 million, 13 percent below the long-term average.

 

Waterfowl hunting seasons in Kansas will begin with the teal season in the Low Plains Zones Sept. 12-27, followed by the High Plains Zone Sept. 19-27, 2015. Regular duck and goose seasons will be approved by the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission at the public hearing portion of its August 20 meeting, which will be held at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, 592 NE K-156 Highway, Great Bend. The public hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m.

 

Waterfowl hunters are required to possess a Kansas HIP permit, state waterfowl permit, federal waterfowl stamp, and Kansas hunting license, unless exempt.

 

For more information on Kansas waterfowl seasons, visit www.ksoutdoors.com.

 

To view a complete version of the data, and get a species-by-species breakdown, visit www.fws.gov/birds/news/150702trend.php, or www.ducks.org/DuckNumbers.

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.

 

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.

USDA accepting more farmland for wildlife habitat in Kansas

 

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Adrian J. Polansky announced that an additional 55,000 acres of agricultural land in Kansas is eligible for funding for wildlife habitat restoration.

 

The initiative, known as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), is part of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally-funded voluntary 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, 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.

 

In total, up to 400,000 acres of additional agricultural land will be eligible for wildlife habitat restoration funding through this SAFE announcement. 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 nationwide.
“This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program, which has not only resulted in significant soil and water improvements, but also greater populations of waterfowl, gamebirds and other wildlife native to the rural countryside,” said Polansky. “Here in Kansas, an additional 55,000 acres in the Upland Game Bird and Lesser Prairie-Chicken SAFE projects are designed specifically to increase Ring Necked Pheasant, Northern Bobwhite Quail, Greater Prairie-Chicken and Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitats. Since establishment of the Upland Game Bird SAFE in 2008 and Lesser Prairie-Chicken SAFE in 2010, farmers and ranchers have enrolled 37,000 and 45,000 acres respectively, resulting in sustainable populations of prairie-chickens and upland game birds through one of the longest droughts in recent history. We hope to continue this progress by offering interested farmers and ranchers the opportunity to enroll another 15,000 acres in the Upland Game Bird SAFE project and 40,000 acres in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken SAFE project.”

 

Interested producers can offer land for enrollment in SAFE and other CRP initiatives by contacting their local FSA county office at http://offices.usda.gov. To learn more the 30th anniversary of CRP and to review 30 success stories throughout the year, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/CRPis30 or follow Twitter at #CRPis30. And for more information about FSA conservation programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.

 

The Conservation Reserve Program was reauthorized by 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 taxpayers. 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.