As many of you have seen in the past few days, and in some cases, the past few months, there has been a push about CRP and the need to increase its funding and capabilities in the future Farm Bill. CRP stands for the Conservation Reserve Program and is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). It is the largest private lands conservation program in our nation.
According to the FSA website, CRP is an agreement between the FSA and a landowner/farmer in which “in exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat…” Land also has to be deemed eligible and the applicant goes through a process in order to enroll their land. The FSA will and has partnered with their sister agency the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), NGO Conservation Agencies and their local Conservation Districts on developing the plan and implementing the program.
All in all, it is a great program that is very beneficial to multiple resources. It goes without saying that this program is beneficial to wildlife, especially deer. But with acres coming out of enrollment, deer numbers have seen a decline. Loss of habitat has led to population decrease which the Quality Deer Management Associations Kip Adams has been talking about for some time. In a 2015 article that Kip authored on the QDMA’s website, he cites habitat loss as number 5 on the list for factors causing deer decline. As a hunter on the most deer deficient area in the Southeast, I agree wholeheartedly. The loss of habitat is, in my opinion, one of the greatest limiting factors to multiple game populations; especially the whitetail. Kips article is a must read and he goes into the details about the amount of CRP coming out.
CRP is not just beneficial to the whitetail. In fact, it has many initiatives that target other species across the landscape. One of the initiatives is geared towards Duck Habitat, another for Honeybees, Upland Bird Habitat, and another for the long leaf pine. A list of the different initiatives can be found here. Another hot topic right now is the Sage Grouse and its habitat on both public and private lands. According to a 2011 study done by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sage Grouse nesting in CRP saw drastic increases over the course of the programs life span.
In the 2014 Farm Bill, CRP saw a drastic reduction in funding. The program was essentially crippled and millions of acres came out. For myself, I have noticed the lack of wildlife in other states I hunt. I have spoken with folks and read comments on social media and other forums on the lack of numbers folks are seeing. The time to act is now, especially as the Farm Bill debates start up. Check out crpworks.org and get involved with groups like the National Deer Alliance (free to be a member). This is an opportunity to get involved. This is our duty as conservationist to speak on behalf of the resources.
I’ll leave you with a video of Melissa Bachman talking about the CRP and the North American Wildlife Model. Check em out. Make a phone call, write an email……
As always, Get in the Arena