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CRP bobwhite quail initiative is announced

Submitted to The Bulletin

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up 29 will begin Monday and run through Sept. 24. Landowners and operators may submit offers to enroll acreage into the program. Successful offers will become effective Oct. 1, 2005 or Oct. 1, 2006, at the producer's discretion.

A limited number of acres will be accepted for enrollment and will use the Environmental Benefits Index to rank the acreage offered. The index is based on costs and five other factors: Soil erosion, water quality, enduring benefits, air quality and wildlife enhancement. Landowners are encouraged to work with their county FSA offices to maximize the environmental benefits of their CRP offers.

Bobwhite quail initiative

United States Department of Agriculture FSA recently announced a CRP Northern Bobwhite Quail Habitat Initiative that will create habitat for the northern bobwhite quail. Enrollment will begin Oct. 1 and remain open until 250,000 acres within the designated states has been enrolled or Dec. 31, 2007, whichever comes first.

The native quail species have a historic range in 35 states within the Midwest and southeast areas of the country. Arkansas was allocated 12,000 acres for the program. The northern bobwhite quail population has declined from about 59 million birds in 1980 to about 20 million in 1999. Their habitats are disappearing due to urbanization, increased grassland cultivation and a transitioning of once grassy fields into woods and forests.

FSA will work with landowners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state fish and wildlife agencies, Quail Unlimited, the Southeast Quail Study Group, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and other conservation groups including local conservation districts.

FSA estimates this nesting and brood-rearing cover will increase bobwhite quail numbers by 750,000 birds annually. Planted buffers also will benefit reptiles, amphibians, aquatic species and upland birds, many of which are being considered for listing as endangered species. In addition, the initiative will reduce soil erosion and protect water quality by trapping field sediments and nutrients.

USDA estimates the program will provide $125 million in payments to participants through 2007. Payments may be made for signing incentive payments of up to $100 an acre, practice incentive payment of up to 40 percent of the eligible establishment cost; cost-share assistance of up to 50 percent of eligible reimbursable costs and annual rental payments and maintenance costs.

Originally published August 28, 2004

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