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Published August 22, 2011, 05:25 AM

Montanans to get extra state CRP allocations

FARGO, N.D. — Montana is one of a handful of states that got Conservation Reserve Program acres reallocated under State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, but North Dakota and other surrounding states did not, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Montana is one of a handful of states that got Conservation Reserve Program acres reallocated under State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, but North Dakota and other surrounding states did not, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency says Montana will be eligible for some share of 153,972 acres of reallocation for conservation and restoration of habitat for prairie chickens sage and sharp-tail grouse.

Jim Jost, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency state program specialist in Fargo, N.D., says SAFE program allocations first were announced in 2008 and enrolled in CRP, with no subsequent allocations for North Dakota since then.

The current law nationally caps CRP at 32 million acres. SAFE is a subset of that, with a national enrollment cap of 850,000 acres. North Dakota currently has 2.64 million acres enrolled in the CRP, of which the state will lose about 130,000 acres as of Oct. 1 and 840,000 acres in 2012. The SAFE program is a small part of the total, with 45,090 acres in the program.

To compare, South Dakota will see 121,000 acres of CRP expire in 2011 and 227,000 acres expire in 2012. Minnesota will have 127,000 expire in 2011 and 292,000 in 2012. Montana will expire 497,000 acres in 2011 and 377,000 acres in 2012.

Here are areas where initial SAFE allocations were used:

North Dakota

- Coteau-Drift SAFE — 20,000 acres in the Missouri Plateau and Drift Plain to “maintain and increase habitat” for “priority species” of waterfowl, water birds, shore birds and terrestrial birds.

- Sagebrush SAFE — 1,000 acres for sage grouse by “restoring cropland to sagebrush habitat,” which would benefit other species, including mule deer.

- Tallgrass SAFE — 6,090 acres to “restore cropland to native tall-grass prairie habitat” for prairie-chicken and sharp-tailed grouse in project areas.

- Habitat for Pheasants SAFE — 18,000 acres for ring-necked pheasants, grouse, partridge, waterfowl, big game and other species.

Minnesota

- Back Forty SAFE — 33,900 acres for pheasants by building upon existing habitates for waterfowl, prairie chicken and grassland birds.

South Dakota

- Sagebrush SAFE — 500 acres in CRP to restore cropland to sagebrush habitat.

- Pheasants SAFE — 50,200 acres for “block grass acreages” for pheasants and other upland birds. The acres would be for nesting, brood-rearing and “escape cover.”

- Grassland Wildlife Habitat SAFE — 18,000 acres for “declining grassland birds” include sharp-tail grouse, upland nesting waterfowl, but also certain owl, sparrow, bobolink and curlew species.

Montana

- Winter Cover SAFE — 15,200 acres for “blocks of grass or shrub cover” for pheasants and other upland birds near existing permanent winter cover.

- Prairie Pothole SAFE — 8,500 acres to “expand habitat” for ducks, pheasants, grouse and “neotropical” birds by seeding “herbaceous vegetation in areas of high wetland densitites” or areas adjacent to semi-permanent wetlands,

- Sagebrush SAFE — 1,000 acres to restore habitat favorable to sage grouse, sage sparrow, sage thrasher and other “sagebrush obligate birds.”

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