There are 13,249 acres available for enrollment to South Dakota landowners interested in conserving upland habitat for pheasants and other wildlife through the continuous Conservation Reserve Program’s “South Dakota Pheasants SAFE” practice. Standing for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, the South Dakota Pheasants SAFE may also be an option for landowners with expiring CRP contracts in 2015.
The goal of the South Dakota Pheasants SAFE project is to enroll a total of 81,500 acres in CRP to provide block grass acreages for ring-necked pheasants and other upland birds in the form of nesting, brood-rearing, winter-roosting and escape cover. There are currently 68,251 acres enrolled in the practice (as of February 2015, the most recent USDA statistics available). CRP SAFE acres give producers more competitive rental rates than general CRP, as well as additional incentive payments. As continuous Conservation Reserve Program practices, these programs are available for enrollment until acreage allocations are reached.
“This program pays in pheasants and pads the pocketbook” says Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s director in South Dakota. “Not only are many landowners interested in helping our state’s prized pheasant population continue to rebound, but they’re also recognizing the economic benefit of continuous CRP practices for their more marginal acres. Interest in the South Dakota Pheasants SAFE practice has definitely increased this year, and we expect these available acres to be signed up quickly this spring.” Nomsen notes that in addition to the wildlife and financial benefits of SAFE, the program also brings soil and water conservation benefits, traditional hallmarks of the Conservation Reserve Program.
Pheasants Forever has 10 Farm Bill wildlife biologists located across South Dakota ready to assist landowners with continuous CRP signups. Through a unique partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, Farm Bill wildlife biologists are located in USDA service centers. Offering assistance for those interested in conservation programs, Farm Bill wildlife biologists can guide landowners from start to finish on CRP contracts while designing plans to benefit wildlife on unproductive crop acres.
For these programs, landowners will receive a CRP rental rate payment, 50 percent cost-share for establishment of wildlife cover, a signing incentive payment of $100/per acre and a practice incentive payment of 40 percent for installed eligible SAFE practices.