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Published March 08, 2012, 12:05 AM

CRP signup: More than 800,000 acres of CRP expire in 2012

The hunting season last year didn’t quite meet the standards from the past, but there’s the possibility that it will get much worse.

By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press

The hunting season last year didn’t quite meet the standards from the past, but there’s the possibility that it will get much worse.

The state of North Dakota has 829,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program set to expire Sept. 30.

“I think it’s like 34.7 percent is going to be lost on Sept. 30,” said Matt Flintrop, Dickinson Farm Bill wildlife biologist. “I think in Stark County it’s going to be 50 percent of our acres. In this particular region, it’s very important.”

The general signup to renew contracts for CRP starts Monday and lasts until April 6. The contracts can range from 10 to 15 years, but landowners also had the possibility of doing a lifetime contract for CRP. During signup time Flintrop and Jaden Honeyman, Hettinger Farm Bill wildlife biologists, will be holding meeting in Dickinson, Mott and Hettinger.

Honeyman said there will be a meeting at 1:30 p.m. today at the New England Memorial Hall.

The term CRP is mainly heard around hunters looking for pheasants. Not only is CRP used for nesting habitats for wildlife, but helps prevent soil erosion and stabilize the soil surface.

“CRP program enhances water quality by filtering a lot of sediments and soil erosion,” Flintrop said. “It helps to keep a habitat around all year long.”

The pheasants use the CRP as nesting ground along with other non-sporting birds in the area. One of the non-sporting birds that are currently on the vulnerable species list is Sprague’s Pipit.

“CRP is the catalyst behind our wildlife populations,” said Aaron Robinson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department upland game biologist in Dickinson. “Especially here in the northern prairies.”

Robinson said the possibility of losing hundreds of thousands of acres of CRP will be detrimental to hunting populations for many years to come.

“In general, CRP is very important for the future of wildlife in North Dakota,” he said. “Especially upland game species. A lot of people will think the pheasants will do fine without CRP and that is not the case. If they think that, they are kidding themselves.”

The importance of this general signup is going to be a big foreshadow of what people can expect the landscape of North Dakota to be in the next five to 10 years.

“It’s very important to get habitat on the ground for pheasants and other nesting birds,” Honeyman said. “Without that, we are seeing a projected loss of possibly about five years depending on what signups do to be down to 300,000 acres. So it’s just going to keep going down.”

Putting land to CRP can be worth the landowners’ price — monetarily. Each piece of land will be weighted Environmental Benefits Index and benefits will be determined based on the data collected.

However, if landowners aren’t able to put their land into CRP, Robinson said there are other possibilities to continue to see wildlife on their property. The NDGF Department has come out with guidebook that has ways of maintain populations. The guides are also available at the National Rural Funders Collaborative offices and Pheasant Forever biologists in the area.

“If they have to put it back into crop production,” Robinson said. “There are things that landowners can do that will help the pheasants and at least keep part of the population strong on their land.”

The meetings will take place in Dickinson at the Elks Lodge at 11:30 a.m. March 19 and 26. In Mott at the Pheasant Café & Lounge at 11:30 a.m. March 20 and 27 and Hettinger at the Research Extension Center at 1 p.m. March 26.

Landowners interested should contact the Stark County Farm Service Agency at 701-227-1281, Ext. 2 and set up an appointment.

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