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More S.D. land is eligible for wildlife habitat restoration

More S.D. land is eligible for wildlife habitat restoration

Officials hope to use the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement program to increase pheasant habitat.

South Dakota Farm Service Agency Executive Director Craig Schaunaman recently announced that an additional an additional 13,000 acres of agricultural land in South Dakota is eligible for funding for wildlife habitat restoration.

Related: What is USDA doing to increase wildlife habitat?

Pheasant hunters walk tall grass on land in South Dakota enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Funds have been allocated to enroll 13,000 more acres in wildlife habitat restoration program.

The initiative, known as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement is part of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program , 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% 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 Schaunaman. “Here in South Dakota, 13,000 acres in the Pheasant SAFE are designed specifically to increase pheasant habitat. Since it was first established in 2008, farmers and ranchers have enrolled 75,100 acres, resulting in an estimated annual production of over 214,000 pheasants. We hope to continue this progress by offering interested farmers and ranchers the opportunity to enroll another 13,000 acres in this 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.

Source: SD FSA

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