It’s not every day that a civil servant gets to feel like a rock star.
But at the 2011 National Pheasant Fest in Omaha, Nebraska this past weekend, employees of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) were a bit like celebrities to thousands of hunters and land managers who love pheasants. Pheasant Fest is a trade show that focuses on wildlife conservation, upland game bird hunting and wildlife habitat management and restoration.
The source of all of the excitement was the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is administered by FSA, with technical assistance offered by NRCS. Through CRP, landowners can receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to convert environmentally sensitive cropland to native grass and flowers.
It turns out that CRP has a lot of fans, and USDA employees got to bask in the CRP limelight as Pheasant Fest celebrated the program and its 25th anniversary.
Since its beginning 25 years ago, CRP has had a tremendous impact on wildlife. About 31 million acres of land are enrolled in the program, creating habitat for quail, prairie chickens and, of course, pheasants.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack attended Pheasant Fest on Friday, Jan. 28. While there, he made the announcement that CRP will have another sign-up in 2011, with the goal of signing up an additional four million acres.
During his remarks, Vilsack said, “Not only has CRP contributed to the national effort to improve water and air quality, it has preserved habitat for wildlife, and prevented soil erosion by protecting the most sensitive areas including those prone to flash flooding and runoff. Today’s announcement continues the Obama Administration’s effort to conserve sensitive areas and improve wildlife habitat.”
Secretary Vilsack made the CRP 2011 sign-up announcement with a dozen landowners seated behind him on the stage. The landowners were a part of a milestone recently achieved in Nebraska – over three million acres of habitat restored across the state.
These acres were developed using conservation dollars provided in partnership between Pheasants Forever and NRCS, FSA, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Nebraska natural resources districts and others.
Now that’s something to crow about.
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