Management of Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands to Meet Wildlife Habitat Objectives

Product Type: 

Scientific Investigations Report

Year: 

2015

Author(s): 

Vandever, M.W. and A.W. Allen

Suggested Citation: 

Vandever, M.W. and A.W. Allen. 2015. Management of Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands to Meet Wildlife Habitat Objectives. Scientic Investigations Report 2015–5070. Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey. 47 p.

Numerous studies document environmental and social benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This report offers a synopsis of findings regarding effects of establishing CRP conservation practices on the quality and distribution of wildlife habitat in agricultural landscapes. On individual farms, year-round provision of wildlife habitat by the CRP may appear relatively insignificant. However, considered from multi-farm to National scales, such improvements in habitat and wildlife response have proven to be extensive and profound.

Because CRP acres historically have been dominated by plantings of introduced and native grasses, this report focuses on issues pertaining to wildlife response to grass-dominated conservation practices. While the majority of CRP acres have been concentrated largely in the Great Plains and Corn Belt regions, 47 states (and Puerto Rico) have participated, resulting in measurable environmental benefits throughout the United States. Numerous investigations of habitat use by a wide range of wildlife species reveal that periodic management of CRP lands can enhance benefits through and beyond a typical 10 year general CRP contract.

Over its 28-year existence, the CRP has evolved into an effective integration of conservation and agricultural policies targeting fragile and environmentally-valuable lands. Landowners with fields enrolled in the CRP often are the first to observe improvement in the landscape, greater numbers and kinds of wildlife, cleaner water and air, less erosion, and they have the satisfaction of seeing fragile lands serve better purposes. There is persistent concern that improvement seen in wildlife habitat and other environmental profits delivered by the CRP are ephemeral and last only as long as funding supports the existence of the program and its vegetative cover is properly managed.

An involved American population will continue to expect governmental policies to enhance long-term protection of natural resources and public health. Recent investigations furnish evidence that the collective economic value of environmental benefits delivered by the CRP likely exceed program costs. The mounting significance placed on environmentally-responsible land management is based in part on public recognition that social, aesthetic, and recreational values enhance the traditional uses of agricultural land.

      

Mark Vandever
Mark Vandever