Thanks to the recent enrollment of land in southeast North Dakota, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative known as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) has surpassed 1 million acres. For pheasant and quail enthusiasts, celebration is in order, as CRP SAFE practices play a significant role in conserving pheasant, quail, and other upland wildlife populations across the country.
Created in 2007, SAFE allowed states to design CRP practices that maintained the program’s hallmark soil and water conservation benefits while targeting specific wildlife species. Because of continued, and in some cases, rapid upland habitat loss, many states tailored their programs to benefit pheasants and quail.
Twenty states have SAFE practices tailored specifically or primarily to the creation of pheasant and quail habitat. Spread across those 20 states are 82 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Farm Bill wildlife biologists. These Farm Bill wildlife biologists
have been vital in helping reach the 1 million acres milestone by working directly with local landowners to enroll high-priority wildlife habitat. Not only did Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever help develop the program, the 1 millionth acre was enrolled by Rachel Bush, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill wildlife biologist in Jamestown, North Dakota.
With SAFE, wildlife species that are endangered, suffering population declines, or providing value to the local community are identified by nonfederal partners. Agricultural producers within an approved SAFE area then can submit offers to voluntarily enroll acres in continuous CRP contracts for 10-15 years. In exchange, these producers receive annual CRP rental payments, incentives, and cost-share assistance focused on establishing, improving, or creating higher-quality wildlife habitat.
“CRP remains the most expansive, impactful conservation program in the country. Historically, landowners have looked to a general signup and its competitive bid process to enroll in the program. But landowners should consider SAFE acres, as well as other continuous programs, as valuable additions to existing contracts,” says Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s vice president of government affairs. “CRP SAFE practices are the best thing going for pheasant and quail habitat creation.”
With a future that faces fewer overall acres of CRP, adaptation will require higher-quality habitat acres, such as those provided by SAFE practices. The nationwide SAFE allocation is 1.35 million acres, leaving more than 300,000 acres available for enrollment. For more information, talk to your local Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever Farm Bill wildlife biologist today – Find a Biologist