The Farm Bill
The Farm Bill and its conservation components make an unmatched impact on our nation’s upland wildlife habitat and hunting access
1985 marks the beginning of the modern-day Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture and/or Food Security Acts. Agricultural policy dates to the early 1900s, but true conservation policies only emerged in the 1930s in response to the Great Depression and related conservation issues from the Dust Bowl era. Soil stabilization, water quality and commodity price control were factors in the policymaking.
The 2018 Farm Bill authorizes approximately $30 billion in conservation funding through 2023.
Why It’s Important
The Farm Bill provides conservation funding and programs that reduce soil erosion, and improve water and air quality, while creating and enhancing wildlife habitat. The legislation also increases land that may be open for public hunting and fishing access. Farm Bill funding supports the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA), three organizations that implement the full suite of Farm Bill conservation and land management programs. Each year, the suite of Farm Bill conservation programs impact 10’s of millions of acres.
Individual Programs within the 2018 Farm Bill
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
Created as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, CRP provides approximately $2 billion each year for conservation on about 25 million acres. The 2018 Farm Bill increased the acreage cap from 24 million acres to 27 million. CRP offers a mix of programs that now range from 3- to 5-, 10-, 15- or 30-year contracts, depending on the type of practice. Examples include grassland, trees, windbreaks, field borders, stream buffers, pollinator plots, food plots and wetlands.
Soil Health Income Protection Program (SHIPP)
This new program for the prairie pothole states provides up to 50,000 acres and 3 to 5 years of rental payment on low-yielding soils.
Clean Lakes Estuaries And Rivers (CLEAR30)
This program created a 30-year option for practices that result in clean lakes, estuaries and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes regions.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
EQIP funding assures that at least 10 percent of its dollars are used for wildlife conservation practices. Programs within EQIP include the successful Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) program that showcases the Sage Grouse Initiative in the West, the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative in the Southern Great Plains, and eastern forest initiatives focused on improving habitat for bobwhite quail, the golden-winged warbler and other important wildlife.
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
The 2018 Farm Bill increased ACEP funding to $450 million per year. ACEP provides long-term and perpetual easements for farmland and critical habitat types. The Wetlands Reserve Easement Program is a key tool for long- term and perpetual easement, which often feature an upland grassland component or bottomland hardwood practice depending on region.
Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program (VPA-HIP)
This program provides $50 million annually to state wildlife agencies to expand access and habitat improvement on private land for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. If you utilize walk-in hunting areas, thank VPA-HIP and that state’s game department.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
RCPP provides $300 million per year to leverage local, state and other non-federal funding sources to create and enhance conservation and wildlife habitat on private lands.
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
CSP assists farmers, ranchers and landowners with existing conservation efforts while strengthening and enhancing their agriculture operation. Elements of CSP can improve grazing conditions, increase crop resiliency or develop wildlife habitat. This funding includes projects for private forestland owners for Timber Stand Improvements (TSI) and invasive vegetative species control.
With P-R, sportsmen and women voluntarily taxed themselves for better conservation practices that serve everyone, not just hunters and anglers
The Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Wildlife Restoration Act originally passed in 1937, and the related Dingell-Johnson (D-J) Sport Fish Restoration Act originally passed in 1950.
Federal P-R funds are generated through an 11 percent excise tax on all firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. P-R and D-J funding fluctuates depending on how much is produced and sold by hunting and fishing equipment manufacturers annually. $972 million was the allocation in fiscal year 2020. Conservation and wildlife projects typically must receive a 25 percent match from non-federal sources, such as financial or in-kind donations from organizations such as Pheasants Forever, or state fish and wildlife agencies (which primarily use revenue generated by state hunting, fishing and trapping license fees).
Why It’s Important
P-R and D-J provide a cornerstone of financial support to state agencies for wildlife management. The P-R program is administered by the USFWS in conjunction with the Dingell-Johnson (D-J) Sport Fish Restoration Act for sport fish restoration and management. P-R and D-J have provided more than $21 billion for wildlife and sport fish management, matched by more than $7.3 billion provided by individual states. P-R/D-J funds have supported:
- Acquiring, developing and operating about 68 million acres of wildlife management and public use areas
- Conducting important wildlife research and surveys
- Building and maintaining public shooting and archery ranges
- Operating hunter education programs
- Supporting “recruit, retain and reactivate” (R3) initiatives (for example, your local chapter may be able to work with state agencies on funding an event for youth or adults interested in learning how to hunt)
North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
NAWCA acquires, restores, protects and creates wetlands, which are some of upland wildlife’s best friends
NAWCA was originally passed in 1989.
NAWCA is funded at about $75 million per year, depending on appropriations. Federal funds for NAWCA include a blend of general appropriations, federal account interest earned, some P-R funds, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act fines. NAWCA projects must provide at least a 1:1 match, meaning one dollar from a non-federal source must match up with every dollar of federal money allotted. Federal funds are often doubled or tripled at the local level.
Why It’s Important
NAWCA provides federal funding to leverage non-federal matching funds from state wildlife agencies and other non-profit and local conservation partners to protect, restore and manage wetland habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Anyone who has hunted a waterfowl area or wetland complex knows that pheasants and upland wildlife thrive in those environs! To date, NAWCA has:
- Engaged more than 6,000 partners (organizations, private landowners, industry and state governments) through more than 2,833 projects to conserve wildlife habitat
- Improved nearly 30 million acres of habitat in all 50 states, Canada and Mexico
- Applied more than $1.6 billion of federal funds to leverage over $4.6 billion of other investments
Due to NAWCA’s wide range of benefits, Congress has consistently shown strong bipartisan support and the program has been included in every presidential budget request since the program’s inception. NAWCA was reauthorized in October of 2020 as part of the America’s Conservation Act. The reauthorization is $300 million over 5 years.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA)
RAWA would fund conservation efforts on wildlife species at risk
If passed, RAWA will provide $1.4 billion in dedicated annual funding to state wildlife agencies and tribes for conservation efforts focused on recovering wildlife species at risk.
Why It’s Important
RAWA will create a much-needed permanent dedicated funding source for state wildlife agencies. If passed, we will see large-scale habitat efforts enacted that benefit pheasants, quail and all wildlife.
The coalition of RAWA supporters (including Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever) has worked for several years to pass the legislation independently. We have also looked at opportunities to pass RAWA as part of a larger conservation package. RAWA will require new conservation funding dollars from the general treasury. New spending bills can be challenging to pass but can be done and are necessary for the advancement of species conservation.
Modernizing Access to our Public Lands Act
MAPLands offers the potential to unlock millions of acres of public land to access for hunting, fishing and other recreation
MAPLand legislation was introduced in March of 2020.
Why It’s Important
For many of us, our outdoor pursuits take place on a combination of public and private lands. We often find it challenging to navigate the boundaries of lands in mixed ownership and to find the access points that get us to and from our public lands.
Many land management agencies’ records of access and easements across private lands are held on paper files at local offices. These records cannot be easily accessed or reviewed. The Forest Service (USFS) alone has an estimated 37,000 recorded easements, but only 5,000 have been digitized and uploaded to an electronic database. The MAPLand Act will standardize the digitization and accessibility of information regarding recreational access on millions of acres of federal public lands throughout the United States. The MAPLand Act would also require that federal land management agencies digitize recorded access easements held across private lands.
The MAPLand Act was recently instructed in Congress, and members are gaining awareness to its purpose and need. The more you let your legislator know you support the MAPLand Act, the better chance it has of creating access to your public lands.
For over 30 years our community of sportsmen and sportswomen have put conservation programs in the ground that have contributed to climate resiliency. These ecosystem-based solutions have worked for pheasants, quail and all upland wildlife.
Recognizing the important environmental contributions that Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever currently make and want to enhance, we joined a group of more than 40 respected conservation organizations on a document designed for policy makers in Washington, D.C., called Sportsmen and Sportswomen’s Statement on Climate. You can read the report here.
Our intent in this process is to enhance and accelerate what we already do. We plan to engage policy makers in an effort to continue assisting farmers, ranchers and landowners in achieving conservation outcomes that enhance their operations, reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and benefit wildlife … while at the same time contributing to climate resiliency. We will continue working with ag industry to bring new precision technologies and strategies to the farm, while finding mutually beneficial opportunities for wildlife habitat. Our pledge to the nation’s farmers, ranchers and policy makers: Creating burdensome regulations or inhibiting agricultural production opportunities has never been, and never will be, be part of our agenda.
Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever are science-based non-profit conservation organizations. All the available science about today’s environmental issues (water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat and climate) points to delivering the PF & QF habitat mission as a major part of the solution to these issues. These solutions involve public and especially private lands.
A nonpartisan climate discussion, both locally and nationally, is an opportunity for our organization to create wildlife habitat. By featuring grasslands along with several other conservation programs we champion, we have had and will continue to have a large impact in climate mitigation. Just like the web of life, when we create habitat for pheasants and quail, we’re also delivering water, soil, wildlife and climate benefits far beyond our beloved gamebirds.
The Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever wildlife habitat mission doesn’t change at all to address climate resiliency. The work we do already for pheasants, quail, sage grouse, prairie chickens, pollinators and monarch butterflies … and all the other upland wildlife that benefits … is critical no matter what a person does or doesn’t believe about climate change.
The habitat work we do to create brood cover for pheasants and quail since our 1982 beginnings are identical to what’s needed for a multitude of species. Restored prairie, grasslands and wetlands, along with healthy forest lands, sequester carbon. For example: It is estimated that CRP alone captures over 50 million metric tons of carbon annually. Pheasant and quail habitat can do all of this while supporting rural economies.
To that end: PF & QF believes that a fully enrolled and in fact expanded Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is essential . . . for the birds, the butterflies, the bees, water quality, soil AND climate.
Our conservation community recognizes that any comprehensive national strategy to address climate resiliency must include reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We also believe this strategy will need to include land- and water-based solutions that harness the power of our natural systems to:
- Sequester carbon and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
- Maintain and build climate resiliency – the ability for natural systems to absorb stress and maintain function in the face of external stressors imposed upon them
- Ensure adaptive solutions such as managing natural systems for climate impacts
We support immediate actions at the federal, state, local and private levels to achieve these needed solutions. And again, we unequivocally believe our favorite wildlife habitat tool – CRP – should be a big part of this approach.
Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever have cultivated large networks of partners and volunteers with experience implementing on-the-ground projects and solutions. We know how to achieve results and have the experience to implement proven actions. Additional investments should be made in already existing programs and activities with established funding delivery systems, partner and volunteer networks, and demonstrated track records for implementation and effectiveness.
Together we can expand these programs to have a much greater impact far more quickly. In other cases, new programs and funding streams will need to be developed to capture the full extent and utility of our natural systems to sequester carbon, bolster climate resiliency, AND create habitat for pheasants, quail and all other upland wildlife.
The Hill: America's dwindling grasslands require action
THE GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOORS ACT: PASSAGE AND IMPLEMENTATION
In August of 2020 President Trump signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). Within this bill were two important provisions PF/QF have worked to pass for many years.
GAOA established full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF was originally passed in 1964 and was intended to be funded up $900 million annually. Each year, money from federal offshore oil and gas leases is deposited into a designated LWCF account. Historically, Congress would then appropriate these funds for their intended conservation and recreation benefits. It is worth noting that only once in LWCF’s 50-year-plus history was Congress appropriated the full $900 million; the rest of these funds were diverted for other uses. Now, LWCF will be fully-funded each year!
Why It's Important
A portion of LWCF funds are dedicated to acquiring new federal lands, supporting public recreational access, helping conserve wildlife migration corridors and impacting important seasonal habitats. LWCF also provides matching grants for the planning, acquiring and developing public outdoor recreation areas and facilities by state and local governments. Since 1964 LWCF has:
- Invested over $16 billion in conservation and outdoor recreation
- Impacted over 5 million acres of public lands
- Provided access to previously inaccessible public lands
- Enabled strategic acquisitions of new lands that benefit of hunters, anglers and every other citizen
- To see what LWCF has done in your state click here.
The Restore our public Lands Act (ROPA) legislation was introduced in February 2019.
Why It's Important
ROPA will provide resources for the billions of dollars needed to perform backlog maintenance on America’s federal lands, especially with our national parks and forests. From building maintenance to upgrading roads, maintenance funds are often cut back in budget negotiations. Secure funding ensure wildlife and natural resource management funding is not diverted away from our obligations to our public lands. ROPA would positively impact hunting, fishing and overall outdoor recreation access by improving roads, bridges and infrastructure.
Our team will remain involved in the implementation of GAOA looking to create new opportunities for habitat and access projects in Pheasant and Quail regions!
Hunt Fish 30x30
In late January 2021, the President issued an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which among other things, establishes a goal of “conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”
PF/QF has a significant role to play in any “30 by 30” discussions and resulting policies. In order to make sure that the hunting and fishing community is recognized for our leadership in conservation, existing conservation efforts that benefit fish and wildlife biodiversity are counted toward the goal, and to make sure we are able to have a seat at the table, PF/QF worked cooperatively last fall to draft a hunting and fishing community statement.
Outdoor Life: President Biden’s Order to Protect 30 Percent of the Nation’s Land
More information coming soon.