Sign Up Now for Conservation and Bird Habitat Programs

Organic farmers and ranchers can sign up now for technical assistance and funding from two different programs. The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers and ranchers to take land out of production and restore it with resource-conserving plant species. The Working Lands for Wildlife program offers funds to restore and protect habitat for greater sage grouse and the southwestern willow flycatcher.

Conservation Reserve Program

Sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is open through February 26, 2016. Participants in CRP establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species such as approved grasses or trees (known as "covers") to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. In return, participants receive rental payments and cost-share assistance.

At times when commodity prices are low, enrolling sensitive lands in CRP can be especially attractive to farmers and ranchers, as it softens the economic hardship for landowners at the same time that it provides ecological benefits. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.

For more information on CRP, contact your local Farm Service Agency office. View a map of offices in California.

Working Lands for Wildlife

This year in California, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Carlos Suarez, more than $2 million is available to eligible ranchers and farmers willing to implement habitat restoration for the sage grouse, the umbrella species of the sagebrush landscape.

This current funding is in addition to more than $4.5 million available to California farmers and ranchers for sage grouse habitat protection on private lands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

NRCS is also investing about $535,000 in California towards habitat restoration for the southwestern willow flycatcher, a small Neotropical migratory bird that lives in riparian areas and wetlands in the arid Southwest. The southwestern willow flycatcher is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act.

“In the last three years, NRCS has invested $1.9 million to enhance 1,046 acres of flycatcher nesting habitat in California coastal riparian areas in San Diego, Ventura, and Orange counties,” said NRCS biologist Shea O’Keefe. “We’d like to work on areas adjacent to existing projects and hope to expand the program into San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles counties.”

Technical and financial assistance is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), ACEP, and the Conservation Stewardship Program. NRCS financial assistance covers part of the cost to implement conservation practices.

For more information, interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local USDA service center. Find the office nearest you.



This article was adapted from two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) press releases: