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December 10, 2015

StateByState_CRP

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December 9, 2015

The Undeniable Upland Benefits of Habitat Conservation on Farms and Ranches

Why CRP works for pheasants and quail

The national Conservation Reserve Program is 30! The CRP was signed into law by President Reagan as part of the Farm Bill on December 23, 1985, to help agricultural producers to voluntarily conserve soil, water, and wildlife. The TRCP and our partners will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of CRP throughout the month of December and into 2016, by highlighting the successes of this popular bipartisan program—regarded by many as the greatest private lands conservation initiative in U.S. history. Here on our blog, we’ll devote a series of posts to the critters that have seen tremendous habitat benefits: upland birds, waterfowl, forest dwellers, and freshwater fish. CRP works for wildlife, and it works for sportsmen.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to sportsmen in this country. This is especially true in the midwestern, eastern, and southern states, where vast amounts of public lands aren’t available to provide habitat for game species. Many hunters and anglers rely on the generosity of private landowners who allow outdoor recreation on their property. Even if you have all the access you need, a landowner’s decision to either maintain habitat or convert land for crops dramatically affects wildlife and your experiences afield.

According to one report, 11 out of 19 non-migratory game birds in the U.S. depend on private lands for more than 50 percent of their habitat. For seven of these species, 80 percent of the population resides on private lands—the Northern bobwhite quail is a perfect example, with 97 percent located on private lands.

So how can we maintain sustainable populations, for the sake of the birds and our sports? Enter the Conservation Reserve Program.

CRP Equals Habitat

America’s rural landscape changed dramatically in the latter half of the 20th century, as urban areas sprawled and farm technology became more sophisticated. In the Prairie Pothole Region, for instance, 60 to 90 percent of original native grasslands have been lost to agriculture and other development. As a result, we’ve seen equally dramatic declines in upland bird populations. Some estimates show a 15-percent annual decline in upland bird numbers until 1986, the first year that farmers and ranchers were eligible to enroll lands in the CRP.

Since that time, upland bird population declines have thankfully slowed or even reversed, due to the reestablishment of habitat on private lands. In pheasant country, Nebraska only showed a 5-percent annual population decline following the introduction of CRP, and in Iowa, pheasant numbers increased 30 percent in the first five years of the program. Through 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture associated a 4-percent annual increase in CRP acreage with a 22-percent increase in pheasant counts. And at the height of CRP’s enrollment in 2006 to 2008, 32 million acres nationwide were credited with producing pheasant numbers unmatched since the 1960s.

Around the same time that CRP peaked, in 2004 the USDA made a new category of lands eligible for the program: habitat buffers for upland birds. Where pheasants benefit from a wide range of conservation practices, including whole-field CRP enrollments and planted food plots, bobwhite quail can do very well in small, 30- to 120-foot-wide strips of buffer habitat, generally placed on marginal or less productive farmland. These buffers often represent an insignificant change for landowners (as little as 5 percent of a farm operation), but they can also provide important nesting, brood rearing, and escape cover for upland species, and serve as travel corridors between fragmented habitat areas. A National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative study estimates that this new CRP initiative added 30,000 coveys to the landscape each year from 2006 to 2011, or approximately 1.5 bobwhites per acre of native grassland enrolled in the program. Compared to their small average enrollment size, these buffers can have an exponentially positive impact on wildlife.

Conservation is Part of a Business Plan

It’s clear that when farmers and landowners enroll in the program, CRP works for upland birds. But as recent history shows, the future viability of pheasants, quail, and other upland species is also closely tied to the economic viability of the program as agricultural markets fluctuate.

Almost immediately after CRP hit a 36.8-million-acre peak in 2007, prices for commodities like corn and soybeans skyrocketed, and so did land values. Landowners exited the CRP in droves to take advantage of the strong agricultural market, and upland bird populations once again began to fall. In the heart of pheasant country, CRP declined by 5.5 million acres between 2006 and 2012; pheasant populations simultaneously dropped by almost half, from 5.7 million birds to just 2.9 million.

To be fair, other upland species didn’t take the same hit—bobwhite quail populations have continued to improve in some areas since the creation of the buffer habitat program a decade ago. Some of the decline in pheasants can also be attributed to periods of harsh weather, but these are hearty birds that have proven they can withstand a Dakota winter—if habitat is available.

Whether USDA will have acres available to turn into habitat, however, is an ongoing concern for wildlife advocates and sportsmen. The CRP was cut in the last Farm Bill from 32 million acres to 24 million acres per year in response to high crop prices and a tight federal budget. But lawmakers—including Senator Pat Roberts, the current chairman of the Senate Agriculture committee, and Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee during the last Farm Bill debate—have expressed concern that the budget alone had a greater impact on the program than it should have. Commodity prices are now leveling off and conservation programs are once again becoming an economically-competitive alternative to cropping, but the shrinking program is limiting land-use choices for farmers.

Is It Enough?

Because of these economic changes, landowners today are weighing a much different decision on land use than they did in the early days of CRP. The program was created 30 years ago primarily to reduce soil erosion and boost commodity prices, and landowners often signed USDA contracts to enroll entire fields in the program. Now, many farmers are seeking a more diversified business model that includes conservation as part of their financial success—they are working under a new mantra: “Farm the best, conserve the rest.” Enrolling land in habitat buffers and State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement can keep working lands working for farmers and for wildlife—but only if the overall amount of habitat can sustain populations. It is yet to be seen whether this Farm Bill’s 24-million-acre cap can make that possible.

We hope it will, but we’ll continue to advocate for an increase to the program in the next Farm Bill. In the meantime, the TRCP is collaborating with the USDA to make sure each and every acre of CRP works better for wildlife—and for sportsmen seeking the thrill of a flush.

This year, CRP is 30, and we can be thankful that CRP works, plain and simple.

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December 8, 2015

We Bag Another Four-Star Rating and Join a Pretty Exclusive Group

The conservation and sportsmen’s access organization receives a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for third year in a row

Especially during this season of charitable giving, we are pleased to announce that we have been awarded an exceptional 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for the third year in a row. That’s the highest possible rating from the nation’s largest independent charity evaluator, and this three-time recognition for our financial health, accountability, and transparency puts the TRCP in the top 14 percent of organizations rated.

In a letter, Charity Navigator president and CEO Michael Thatcher says this designation indicates that the TRCP “outperforms most other charities in America” and demonstrates to the public that we are worthy of their trust. Learn more about our rating and financials here.

“We think trust is a major factor in our ability to build coalitions, champion investments in conservation, protect sportsmen’s access, and create solutions for improving public land management,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “So, we’re very proud that sportsmen can feel good about donating to the TRCP because of our ethics and our results.”

Learn how you can help the TRCP elevate the sportsman’s voice in Washington and guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish by clicking here.

Or take action for conservation right now.

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THEODORE ROOSEVELT CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP RANKED AMONG TOP CHARITIES IN THE COUNTRY

News for Immediate Release

Dec. 08, 2015

Contact: Kristyn Brady, 617-501-6352, kbrady@trcp.org

The conservation and sportsmen’s access organization receives a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for third year in a row

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Especially during this season of charitable giving, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is very pleased to announce that we have been awarded an exceptional 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for the third year in a row. That’s the highest possible rating from the nation’s largest independent charity evaluator, and this three-time recognition for our financial health, accountability, and transparency puts the TRCP in the top 14 percent of organizations rated.

In a letter, Charity Navigator president and CEO Michael Thatcher says this designation indicates that the TRCP “outperforms most other charities in America” and demonstrates to the public that we are worthy of their trust. Learn more about our rating and financials here.

“We think trust is a major factor in our ability to build coalitions, champion investments in conservation, protect sportsmen’s access, and create solutions for improving public land management,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “So, we’re very proud that sportsmen can feel good about donating to the TRCP because of our ethics and our results.”

Learn how you can help the TRCP elevate the sportsman’s voice in Washington and guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish by clicking here.

Or take action for conservation right now.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.

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Glassing The Hill: December 7 — 11

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

Both the Senate and House will be in session from Monday through Friday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

There’s no such thing as saved by the bell in Congress. With only five legislative days left to hammer out a spending bill and avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers need to act by Friday if they want to fly home for the holiday recess, rather than go into extra innings. Congressional leaders are publicly optimistic about an omnibus spending bill, but not before the December 11 deadline. They’ll likely pass a week-long continuing resolution (reminder: a temporary fix, like the one passed in September) to provide more time for a full-year omnibus bill.

The holdup: about 100 possible policy riders, which include language defunding the Clean Water Rule and Clean Power Plan, implementing drought procedures and a potential fix to fire borrowing with some minor forest reform, and reintroducing of a harmful sage grouse amendment that was stripped from the National Defense Authorization Act this summer.

In another part of the Capitol last week, President Obama signed a six-year highway bill, which was the first long-term transportation legislation since 2005. The Highway Bill includes funding for Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service roads, which impact your access to public lands, and funding for transportation projects that improve fish and wildlife habitat.

Meanwhile, mark-up of the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act,” rumored to be this Wednesday in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has been delayed and rescheduled for January 13. We’ll keep you posted.

Besides floor action on a yearlong omnibus bill, a short-term CR, or both, the Senate will be considering reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, an overhaul of No Child Left Behind, and the House will vote on Representative Thornberry’s (R-TX) Red River Private Property Protection Act, a measure to settle a Bureau of Land Management boundary dispute, and visa waiver program improvements.

What We’re Tracking

Monday, December 7, 2015

Restoration of Atlantic fisheries, to be discussed by the House Natural Resources Committee at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center in New York. Learn more about the field hearing here

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The National Park Service Centennial, with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing testimony to prepare for the celebration

The stream protection rule proposed by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement will be discussed in a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior hearing

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

More on the Animas River spill, in a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on EPA’s and DOI’s role

California wilderness areas, off-road vehicle recreation, and wild and scenic rivers impacted by Congressman Paul Cook’s (R-CA) California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act will be discussed by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CHEERS TO CONSERVATION

Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

Learn More

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