Enrolled acres are critical to wildlife and hunting
Habitat created by farmers enrolling private land in the Conservation Reserve Program has supported dramatically increased wildlife populations in Minnesota. For example, when Minnesota had its maximum CRP acreage – 1.83 million acres in 2007 – Minnesota hunters saw the highest pheasant harvest in decades. As CRP acres have declined, so has the annual pheasant harvest.
From 2007 to 2016, Minnesota's pheasant harvest dropped by 70 percent. In that same time period, prairie chickens numbers dropped 61 percent. Bobolinks declined 59 percent.
A 2007 study estimated that CRP in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota increased duck production by 2 million birds or 30 percent. Wetlands in CRP fields had 30 percent more breeding ducks than wetlands in crop fields.
Since 2007, Minnesota has lost 1,204 square miles of CRP. During the next four years, another 751 square miles will disappear when those CRP contracts expire.
What a strong CRP does
- Increases the national CRP cap to 40 million acres. In the most recent 2014 Farm Bill, the CRP national cap was reduced to 24 million acres. We advocate for increasing the national cap to 40 million acres.
- Develops a working lands CRP approach. When done with wildlife conservation in mind, grazing and haying can actually benefit habitat and wildlife populations. Working Lands also help contribute to the local agricultural economy.
- States have input on prioritizing and targeting CRP acres. States have plans and landscape models that show where to put grasslands to maximize their societal benefits (ecosystem services) that can be layered on existing models that show benefits to landowners by removing erodible or unproductive lands from row crops.