Wildlife Friendly Farmland
(USDA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is administered by the Farm Services Agency. One aspect of this program pays farmers to plant former row crop fields with native warm-season grasses, which fight erosion and provide food and habitat for wildlife. Williams' CRP fields lose less topsoil and are providing food and habitat for deer, turkey and quail. Through the USDA office, he learned about the Wetland Heritage Program. Dennis Browning, a wildlife management biologist with the Conservation Department, helped him draw up a plan to establish a wetland in some CRP land that often flooded.
"I own five lakes," Williams says, "but I thought it would be great to create more habitat for ducks and geese."
Frank Oberle, a natural history photographer, also was interested in restoring Missouri's natural habitat. With help from Wildlife Management Biologist Mike Jones, Oberle is converting 200 acres of overgrazed pasture on his 500-acre farm in Adair County into a highly productive prairie ecological system that contains more than 300 native plant species.
Oberle was able to get chemicals he needed to kill fescue and brome from Monsanto Co. as part of a program to restore prairie chicken habitat. Jones also helped him burn the prairie, which is crucial for some of the native plants to germinate.
"I've worked closely with Mike since I bought the farm," Oberle says. "He asked about my commitment and my personal involvement. If a program came by that fit my needs, he contacted me. Because of these programs, I'm way ahead of where I thought I would be three or four years ago."
Today Oberle doesn't have to travel quite so far for some of his photography shoots because his land now attracts a wide variety of wildlife. For example, on what was once a degraded hay field, he took photographs of a bobolink nest with four young. He also supplements his income with seeds he harvests from his prairie plants.
Native plant restoration is a goal for another landowner, the Wheeling Cemetery Board. According to President Harold Warren, the board enrolled the 82-acre fields surrounding the 5-acre cemetery near Chillicothe in CRP and is converting fescue to a mixture of native grasses and wildflowers. The Conservation Department furnished some of the seed, and the CRP payments provide income to help maintain the cemetery. Someday, the board hopes the native plants will attract a variety of wildlife to enhance the serenity of the country cemetery, while the wildflowers provide a colorful backdrop.
Landowners and their goals are as diverse as the state's landscape. To help them achieve their goals, the Conservation Department's staff is available to provide advice, equipment and cost-sharing programs. For more information, contact the regional office or the conservation agent in your area.