Land program may aid wildlife

Idaho farmers who want to sign up for federal conservation programs have a wildlife-friendly alternative.

LEWISTON TRIBUNEJune 25, 2013 

The new program could be both more flexible and lucrative than the standard Conservation Reserve Program.

Like the well-known CRP, the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement program pays landowners to convert crop land to soil-stabilizing vegetation. Landowners are paid rent for the land at a rate commensurate with what they would receive if they leased the land for farming.

But under the new program, they also receive a 50 percent cost share for planting wildlife-friendly grasses and other plants, as well as a 40 percent incentive payment that brings the total cost share to about 90 percent. In addition, landowners enrolling acres not already in a conservation program can receive a $100-per-acre incentive payment.

"It's good for producers," said Matt Pieron, a wildlife biologist and farm bill coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "There is money there to get it going. The cost share is very good, and at the end of the day it's very good for wildlife, too."

Unlike CRP, the program is not competitive and it has a continuing enrollment, meaning landowners don't have to sign up within a specific time period. Also, land doesn't have to be classified as highly erodible to qualify for enrollment in the program.

State wildlife agencies, tribes and private groups can apply for specific geographic areas to be eligible for the program.

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