USDA has approved the reallocation of 153,972 acres available through a special Conservation Reserve Program initiative entitled State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, or SAFE. The money will support conservation and restore habitat for lesser prairie chickens, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, and other grassland, sage or prairie-dependent species in eight states, including Nebraska.
The other states are Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Texas.
The additional CRP acres for this purpose is part of a broader USDA effort to support conservation and restoration of important habitats for wildlife.
SAFE is a continuous Conservation Reserve Program practice that conserves and restores habitat for wildlife species that are threatened or endangered, have suffered significant population declines or are important environmentally, economically or socially, Vilsack says.
SAFE is currently capped at 850,000 acres nationally. Acres are now allocated across 90 SAFE projects located in 35 states and Puerto Rico.
Under SAFE, state fish and wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners target CRP delivery to specific conservation practices and geographic areas where enrollment of eligible farm land in continuous CRP will provide significant wildlife value, especially for threatened and endangered species and other environmental, economic, and social benefits. USDA monitors SAFE and other continuous CRP activity and manages available acres to ensure that CRP goals and objectives are being met.
Farmers and ranchers may enroll eligible land in CRP under 10- to 15-year contracts with the Farm Service Agency. Participants plant appropriate cover such as grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. These plantings help conserve and improve soil and prevent sediment and nutrients from running into waterways and affecting water quality. The long-term vegetative cover also enhances wildlife habitat. CRP has been credited with being an important contributor to retaining sage grouse habitat and increasing waterfowl populations in the prairie pothole region of the country.
For more information on SAFE, contact a local FSA county office or visit the FSA website at www.usda.fsa.gov/crp.