WASHINGTON, May 1, 2015 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini today announced that a major national conservation program that restores high-priority wildlife habitat has now surpassed 1 million acres with the recent enrollment of land in La Moure County, North Dakota.
The initiative, known as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), is a part of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally-funded voluntary program that contracts with agricultural producers so that environmentally-sensitive land is not farmed or ranched, but instead used for conservation benefits. With SAFE, wildlife that may be endangered, suffering population declines, or that provide value to the local community, is identified by nonfederal partners. Agricultural producers within an approved SAFE area then can submit offers to voluntarily enroll acres in CRP contracts for 10-15 years. In exchange, these producers receive annual CRP rental payments, incentives and cost-share assistance focused on establishing, improving, or creating higher-quality wildlife habitat.
“We’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program this year, so one million acres of new wildlife habitat is another a parallel milestone for the program,” said Dolcini. “SAFE began in 2007 as an offshoot to focus on establishing key plant species that help not just soil and water, but also are beneficial to selected rural wildlife habitat. And as it enhances the flora and fauna of the countryside, it can also create recreational opportunities for the sportsman, which is an investment in the rural economy as well.”
Four of the 98 SAFE projects nationwide can be found in North Dakota, covering more than 122,000 acres. The one millionth national SAFE acre was enrolled as part of the Coteau-Drift project, which creates waterfowl, shorebird and terrestrial bird habitat the Missouri Plateau and Drift Prairie region.
According to FSA State Executive Director for North Dakota, Aaron Krauter, “Since the Coteau-Drift project was established, we’ve worked with producers to enroll more than 69,000 acres in SAFE that have helped improve habitat and maintain excellent numbers of waterfowl, which in turn draws more hunters and nature enthusiasts that contribute to our local economies, so it’s altogether fitting that this milestone occurred in North Dakota.”
Producers can offer land for enrollment in SAFE and other CRP programs by contacting their local FSA county office at http://offices.usda.gov. To learn more about Farm Service Agency conservation programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.
The 2014 Farm Bill continues the Conservation Reserve Program. The Farm Bill 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. To learn more about FSA, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
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