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13
New program geared toward helping quail population


BOONE - Iowa's quail population has been on a steep decline since the late 1970s, but a new effort by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is attempting to reverse that trend.

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The Northern Bobwhite Quail Habitat initiative is a new practice under the Conservation Reserve Program continuous sign up.

Iowa was allocated 20,000 acres, available to landowners on a first-come, first-served basis.

Eligible lands include those in the southern half of Iowa and along the Mississippi River up to Clayton County and the Missouri River up to Woodbury County.

The land must have been cropped for four years between 1996 and 2001.

Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR, said quail need a combination of brushy areas and crop fields to survive. He added that the program would place a buffer strip between the two areas and stresses plant mixtures that are more forb intensive than other CRP efforts and the grasses are smaller, like side oats and little bluestem.

"These mixtures were created to offer the best chick brood habitat," he said in a statement.

Although Iowa landowners have been slow to sign up, Illinois landowners have signed up their 20,000 acres already.

"If we don't use our acres, there is the potential that they could be offered to other states," Bogenschutz said.

The Bobwhite quail initiative offers a 90 percent cost share for installing the buffer, a first-year bonus payment of $100 per acre and will pay the average county rental payment for the 10-year contract.

A good place for the quail buffer would be along a woody fence line, brushy draw, old hedgerow or other area along a crop field not ideal for corn or soybeans.

The landowner could place a 30-foot buffer around the trouble spot, get paid to get rid of the headache and provide much-needed quail habitat.

Landowners interested in the program should talk to their local wildlife biologist or go to their USDA office.

"This is not a competitive sign up, and once the acres are gone, they're gone," Bogenschutz said.

Information is available online at www.iowadnr.com, at www.fsa.usda.gov/ia/, or at www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/.


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