WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is welcoming new and modified proposals from conservation partners for the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative, a part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) focused on effectively managing wildlife habitat. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has expanded available practices under this initiative in response to feedback from partners.
“We are committed to offering a strong suite of voluntary conservation options through the Conservation Reserve Program,” said FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “In 2021, we made several updates to CRP to improve program participation and strengthen its climate benefits. As we work to build on those efforts, we’re now encouraging producers to help us strengthen the wildlife benefits of CRP through our SAFE initiative. We encourage government entities, nonprofits, and other groups to take advantage of this unique opportunity to help us manage wildlife habitat, and we are committed to supporting and working with our partners to meet high-priority state conservation goals.”
Through SAFE, producers and landowners restore vital habitat in alignment with high-priority state wildlife conservation goals. Specifically, landowners establish wetlands, grasses, and trees. These practices are designed to enhance important wildlife populations by creating critical habitat and food sources. They also protect soil and water health by working as a barrier to sediment and nutrient run-off before they reach waterways.
To help improve the planning and implementation of the SAFE initiative, FSA is adding two new practices with the assistance of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), FSA’s sister agency. In partnership with FSA, NRCS employees across the country provide CRP participants with critical conservation planning assistance, which will now include managing for early successional habitat cover establishment or management, and wildlife habitat planting. These additional eligible practices will enable SAFE partners to better target a wide variety of wildlife species, such as the Northern bobwhite, lesser prairie-chicken, and the New England cottontail.
As part of this year’s SAFE signup, FSA will also authorize cost-share assistance for producers who would like to re-enroll acres in CRP but need assistance updating their vegetative cover to align with NRCS practice standards for early successional habitat or wildlife planting.
Eligible entities for SAFE include government entities, non-profits, and private organizations.
Additionally, partners with SAFE projects with both General and Continuous CRP practices must submit modified proposals to continue in the program.
New and modified proposals for SAFE projects must be submitted to FSA State Offices in June. Contact your State Office for the state-specific deadline. More information on developing proposals is available at fsa.usda.gov/crp.
SAFE is part of the Continuous CRP signup, and producers can begin enrolling in new or updated SAFE programs beginning October 1, 2022. Meanwhile, the Continuous and Grassland signups are currently open through May 13, 2022, and producers can learn more by contacting their local USDA Service Center. To learn more about SAFE and its benefits, see the initiative’s fact sheet.
Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest voluntary private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits.
CRP complements other USDA conservation programs, including several programs offered by NRCS for working lands and conservation easements. Earlier this month, NRCS released its Northern Bobwhite, Grasslands and Savannas Framework for Conservation Action to help guide voluntary conservation work over the next five years across 25 states, including over 7 million acres of new conservation practices on productive, working lands, and will contribute to the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to make our nation a leader on climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience. The plan will accelerate voluntary conservation efforts for the Northern bobwhite quail and the grassland and savanna landscapes that the species calls home.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.
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