The Farm Bill and Missouri Landowners
with the wetland restoration, the project included planting 37 acres of trees, as well as nearly 26 acres of native warm-season grasses surrounding the wetland. The tract also includes a healthy riparian corridor along the creek that contains a variety of bottomland tree species. Steve and his son, Anthony, are particularly proud of a huge sycamore tree along the creek. It takes five or six adults joining hands to reach around it.
The Peoples family especially enjoys watching wetland wildlife. In the two hours I spent on the farm with Steve, we observed turkeys, deer, bobwhite quail, great blue herons, several species of ducks, a yellow crowned night heron and countless other birds too agile to identify. Steve also likes knowing the permanent easement he has arranged will protect the land after he and his family are no longer able to care for it. In fact, Steve thinks the permanent easement may improve the value of the land over time.
"Having lived on the property 46 years of my life, I feel like the benefits of WRP are unending," he said.
Currently, Missouri has about 641 WRP easements covering nearly 93,000 acres. Most of them are permanent, and some are 30-year easements. The Wetland Reserve Program also offers a 10-year option for landowners who want to restore wetlands but don't want to place land in a long-term easement.
Another popular program with landowners across the nation is the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. Administered by the Farm Services Agency (FSA), it started in 1985 and was designed to pay landowners for up to 10 years to remove sensitive lands from crop production and establish either grasses or trees. When managed correctly, lands enrolled in CRP significantly reduce soil erosion, improve water quality of streams and wetlands, and provide habitat for several species of wildlife.
Like all USDA programs, CRP is totally voluntary. More than 1.5 million acres of land in Missouri are enrolled in the CRP program.
John Grice, a retired Linn County farmer and landowner, has been active in CRP since 1985. He owns 996 acres in the Locust Creek watershed, and he has enrolled 378 of those acres in CRP. Locust Creek has long been a source of concern because of the potential for too much sediment or too many nutrients entering the stream. Grice says CRP has helped many landowners in the watershed reduce the amount of