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USDA ANNOUNCES SECOND ROUND OF HABITAT RESTORATION PROJECTS UNDER NEW CRP PRACTICE
ATLANTA, Ga. Feb. 21, 2008 - Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced that USDA has approved the second round of conservation projects under the new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practice titled "State Acres For wildlife Enhancement," or SAFE. USDA unveiled 30 SAFE projects that will benefit threatened, endangered and other high-priority species in 16 states covering up to 160,100 acres.
"These habitat restoration projects represent the best of President Bush's Cooperative Conservation Initiative because they assist farmers and ranchers to voluntarily conserve habitat across our great nation to help a wide range of wildlife which have the greatest need," said Schafer. "Because SAFE helps marginal, ecologically sensitive acreage, prime cropland can remain in production at a time when commodity prices are high."
By enrolling land in CRP, the Louisiana Bayou Bartholomew SAFE project will enhance up to 1,700 acres of habitat for the threatened pink mucket pearly mussel, bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker and Louisiana black bear. The New Jersey Agricultural Heritage SAFE project seeks to enroll up to 300 acres in CRP to improve habitat for wood, bog, eastern box and spotted turtles, an array of salamanders, several sparrow species, migratory raptors and other fauna. In New Mexico, the Lesser Prairie Chicken SAFE project will enroll up to 2,600 acres in the eastern part of the state to help the bird, a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and other species.
USDA also approved SAFE projects in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee. USDA posted a fact sheet online that contains descriptions of the 30 SAFE projects at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/safepr208.pdf .
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Teresa Lasseter detailed the projects during a news conference held today at the National Wild Turkey Federation's 32nd Annual Convention and Sport Show in Atlanta, Ga. The National Wild Turkey Federation joined with other conservation partners in proposing several SAFE projects.
Last month, USDA announced the first approved projects under SAFE that included 45 projects in 18 states encompassing up to 259,776 acres. USDA unveiled the SAFE conservation practice last year, and since then FSA and its partners have been developing targeted projects to address specific goals. Through SAFE, USDA seeks to enhance 500,000 acres of high-priority wildlife habitat through CRP. Like other continuous CRP practices, SAFE targets smaller parcels of the most environmentally sensitive land to achieve maximum environmental benefit.
FSA state offices will announce sign-up for all approved SAFE projects soon. At that time, landowners may enroll by visiting their local FSA service center.
Under SAFE, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners determined geographic areas where enrollment of farm land in CRP would benefit threatened, endangered or other high priority species. Project partners then developed conservation proposals that included enrolling land in the designated geographic areas in CRP using existing CRP practices for the benefit of specific species of concern. Last year, USDA accepted SAFE proposals developed by these organizations. FSA evaluated SAFE proposals to determine whether the selected practices would create the desired habitat. To be accepted by FSA, SAFE proposals had to be approved by qualified wildlife professionals and include a wildlife monitoring and evaluation plan.
SAFE is a wildlife management tool that helps state and regional agencies, non-profit organizations and others to address local wildlife objectives through habitat restoration. SAFE provides conservation partners the flexibility to create projects and install conservation practices that target the specific needs of high-value wildlife species. By developing SAFE projects, these organizations and their partners enhance the effectiveness of CRP by helping to establish higher-quality habitat and healthier ecosystems for species of concern and other wildlife. More information about SAFE is at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/safe08.pdf .
Under CRP, farmers and ranchers enroll eligible land in 10- to 15-year contracts with USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). FSA administers CRP on behalf of CCC. Participants plant appropriate cover such as grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. These plantings help prevent soil and nutrients from running into regional waterways and affecting water quality. The long-term vegetative cover also improves wildlife habitat and soil quality.