DU recognizes 25th anniversary of Conservation Reserve Program
Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program. The Food Security Act of 1985 established the CRP, arguably the greatest landscape-level conservation program ever. The act created CRP initially to reduce soil erosion on highly erodible lands and protect our nation's long-term capacity to produce food and fiber. However, over the years, Congress expanded the purposes of the program to improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat.
"Ducks Unlimited appreciates the support and commitment shown by the USDA during the past 25 years in successfully administering one of the best conservation programs in the history of this great country," said Dale Hall, Ducks Unlimited's chief executive officer. "The CRP is critical for maintaining waterfowl populations and our rich waterfowl hunting traditions. DU looks forward to working with Congress and the administration to chart a successful course for CRP's next 25 years."
Today, more than 31 million acres are enrolled in CRP and many species of wildlife have benefited tremendously, including waterfowl. In the Prairie Pothole Region, 6.8 million acres are currently enrolled, providing critical nesting habitat for ducks and other grassland nesting birds. In addition, landowners have restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands and adjacent upland habitats through the CRP. The majority of these wetlands are located in the PPR.
The benefits to waterfowl populations have been tremendous. Researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA estimate the PPR landscape, with the current level of CRP enrollment, produces 30 percent more ducks than a similar landscape without CRP.
Landowners and taxpayers have also benefited. CRP rental payments provide landowners with a stable income source, and, to date, the USDA has provided more than $38 billion in rental payments. According to researchers, CRP annually helps improve water quality by reducing erosion by nearly 450 million tons, sediment by more than 215 million tons, nitrogen by more than 600 million pounds and phosphorus by more than 120 million pounds.