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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Fulfills Commitment to Designate 1 Million Additional Conservation Acres to Support Wildlife Habitat Restoration

Failure to Pass Food, Farm and Jobs Bill Puts Enrollments in Jeopardy

LEWIS, Iowa, Oct. 8, 2012—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today underscored the Obama Administration's commitment to partnerships in conservation by announcing the allocation of 400,000 acres to support conservation and restoration of wildlife and their habitats as part of the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. Under Vilsack's leadership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has enrolled more than 12 million acres in CRP, a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them use marginal and environmentally sensitive land to bring conservation and economic benefits for their land and communities. Today's announcement of 400,000 state acres for wildlife enhancement (SAFE acres), fulfills Vilsack's commitment made last spring to commit 1 million acres for special initiatives to restore grasslands, wetlands and wildlife habitat.

"Since 2009, USDA has worked with producers and private landowners to enroll a record number of acres in conservation programs," said Vilsack. "These efforts have not only conserved our natural resources, but bolstered rural economies for current and future generations. That's why it's important for Congress to pass comprehensive, multi-year food, farm and jobs legislation—so that America's rural communities have certainty that millions of acres of conservation lands will be there tomorrow to sustain and create jobs in the small businesses that reinforce our tourism and recreation industry."

With 400,000 SAFE acres available, USDA will work with producers and landowners to target habitat for high-priority species like the lesser prairie chicken and sage grouse, as well as game species like pheasants and quail that providing hunting opportunities and support rural jobs. Existing projects in 20 states will be able to add up to 280,000 combined acres for all projects, including prairie, wetlands, forest and savanna habitat restoration. In addition, more than 100,000 acres were added to target species as diverse as northern scarlet snakes, ferruginous hawks and the American woodcock.

SAFE is a voluntary continuous CRP practice that conserves and restores habitat for wildlife species that are threatened or endangered, have suffered significant population declines or are important environmentally, economically or socially. SAFE is currently capped at 1.25 million acres nationally. Acres are now allocated across 97 SAFE projects located in 36 states and Puerto Rico.

Under SAFE, state fish and wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners work collaboratively to target CRP delivery to specific conservation practices and geographic areas where enrollment of eligible farm land in continuous CRP will provide significant wildlife value. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) monitors SAFE and other continuous CRP activity and manages available acres to ensure that CRP goals and objectives are being met.

The Food Security Act of 1985, Section 1231(a), as amended, provides authority to enroll land in CRP through September 30, 2012. However, no legislation has been enacted to reauthorize or extend this authority; therefore, CRP currently is unable to enroll new acres.

In March, Secretary Vilsack announced USDA's intent to enroll up to 1 million acres in a new CRP grasslands and wetlands initiative meant to target environmentally sensitive land through continuous signups. FSA has set aside acres within CRP for specific enrollments that benefit duck nesting habitat, upland birds, wetlands, pollinators and wildlife. In addition, USDA announced a continuous sign-up of highly erodible cropland, which seeks to protect the nation's most environmentally sensitive lands. The Highly Erodible Cropland initiative permits landowners to enroll up to 750,000 acres of land with an Erodibility Index (EI) of 20 or greater.

CRP is one of America's most valuable and vital conservation efforts, ensuring cleaner air and water, preventing soil erosion, and enhancing economic opportunity in rural America by supporting recreation and tourism. The approach to target the most sensitive lands is essential to maintain the substantial benefits of CRP while ensuring that productive farmlands continue to produce America's food, feed, fiber and renewable fuel.

Highlights of CRP include:

  • CRP prevents the erosion of 325 million tons of soil each year, or enough soil to fill 19.5 million dump trucks;
  • CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers;
  • Each year, CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation's streams, rivers, and lakes;
  • CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs; and
  • CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the country. By placing vulnerable cropland into conservation, CRP sequesters carbon in plants and soil, and reduces both fuel and fertilizer usage. In 2010, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road.

As part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, the Administration is opening up recreational access to lands and waters, supporting the creation of urban parks and trails, increasing youth employment in conservation jobs and making historic investments in large landscapes such as the Everglades. The initiative is empowering locally-led conservation and outdoor recreation efforts, from supporting the working landscapes of the Dakota Grasslands and longleaf pine in the southern U.S., to designating the Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado, to countless other success stories across the country.

In 2011, USDA enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and prevent soil erosion. Moreover, the Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, implement the Farm Bill, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers.

The following tables show the breakdown of SAFE allocations by state and projects:


State Project Original Acreage Allocation Change in Allocation Final Allocation

AR Trees 5,000 1,200 6,200

AR Grass 7,700 1,000 8,700

AR Wetlands 3,500 -1,000 2,500

GA Restoring Native Pine Savannah 8,800 3,000 11,800

ID Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse 94,300 11,800 106,100

ID Western ID Upland Game Bird 25,000 25,000

IL Mercer County 800 1,000 1,800

IN American Woodcock 1,000 1,000

IN Indiana Bat 3,100 1,000 4,100

IN Henslow's Sparrow 5,075 1,000 6,075

IN Northern Bobwhite 7,875 1,000 8,875

IN Ring-Necked Pheasant 4,000 4,000

IN Sedge Wren/ Grasshopper Sparrow 3,050 1,000 4,050

IA Gaining Ground 36,250 5,900 42,150

IA Pheasant Recovery 50,000 50,000

KS Upland Game Birds 30,100 14,800 44,900

KS Lesser Prairie Chicken 30,000 22,100 52,100

KY Early Successional / Bottomland 8,600 3,000 11,600

MN Back Forty Pheasant 33,900 14,800 48,700

MS Bobwhite Quail 9,450 1,000 10,450

MO Bobwhite Quail 17,650 7,400 25,050

MO Delta Stewardship 6,000 6,000

MO Sand Grassland 3,250 1,800 5,050

MT Pheasant Winter Cover 15,200 4,400 19,600

MT Prairie Pothole 8,500 5,900 14,400

MT Sagebrush 1,000 1,500 2,500

NE Tallgrass Prairie 21,450 7,400 28,850

NE Upland Bird 30,950 22,100 53,050

NJ Agricultural Heritage 300 150 450

NJ Grassland 400 350 750

NJ Raritan-Piedmont 300 250 550

NV Sage Grouse Habitat Improvement 400 400

ND Coteau-drift Prairie Water 20,000 16,200 36,200

ND Habitat for Pheasants 18,000 11,800 29,800

ND Sagebrush Restoration 1,000 1,000 2,000

ND Tallgrass Prairie 6,090 1,000 7,090

OH Big Island/ Killdeer 925 1,000 1,925

OH Grasslands for Pheasants 6,600 22,100 28,700

OH Kitty Todd 200 500 700

OH LaSuAn Grasslands 1,950 4,400 6,350

OH Paint Creek 675 1,000 1,675

OH Western Lake Erie 400 1,000 1,400

OH Southern Grassland 850 1,000 1,850

SD Pheasants 50,200 14,800 65,000

SD Western SD Grassland Wildlife 18,000 14,800 32,800

TN Grass 10,000 1,500 11,500

TX Mixed Grass 78,400 44,300 122,700

WA Ferruginous Hawk 20,000 20,000

WA Shrub-steppe 7,322 8,900 16,222

Subtotal 607,112 385,550 992,662

Other project with no change in original allocation 232,878 -- 232,878

Reserve 10,010 14,450 24,460

Total 850,000 385,550 1,250,000

For more information on SAFE, contact a local FSA county office or visit the FSA website at


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