The Farm Bill and Missouri Landowners
plan that provides cost share for the habitat practices Grice has implemented.
"These programs not only benefit me financially, but the wildlife gives me pleasure," Grice said. "It's a good deal."
One Madison County family uses the benefits of the new Farm Bill to better manage the forested land on their property. Harry Robbins and his sons, Arthur and James, have 975 acres of forest land and pasture in the Castor River watershed north of Marquand. They actively enhance their property for wildlife, while providing pasture and grassland for a livestock haying operation on their farm.
Robbins is a 15-year board member of the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District. He is also an accountant. He is familiar with many of the state and federal programs used by landowners, and he recognizes their value.
Joe Tousignant, a Wildlife Services Biologist with the Conservation Department in Jackson, has worked closely with the Robbins family, providing recommendations for habitat improvement and explaining program guidelines. He helped the family enroll its property in WHIP in 2000. The primary focus of the WHIP contract is improving habitat conditions for deer and turkeys.
Tousignant recommended creating two forest openings and developing two wildlife watering facilities within the forested portion of the property. Each of the forest openings was seeded to a wildlife-friendly mixture of grasses and clover to provide green browse for deer, as well as important brood rearing cover for turkeys and small game.
Robbins removed smaller and less viable trees from the acreage adjacent to the forest openings to increase the amount of sunlight reaching the forest floor. This practice, called timber stand improvement, reduces the threat of red oak decline, a condition facing many older oak stands in Missouri.
Timber stand improvement boosts the value of the remaining trees, increases acorn production and improves the habitat for deer, turkey, squirrel and rabbit and other wildlife. The Robbins family also excludes livestock from forested areas of the farm. This helps reduce soil erosion and increases the amount of green browse and herbaceous cover for many wildlife species.
The Robbins family employs a rotational grazing system using low maintenance, high-tensile, electric, cross fencing. To provide a more dependable water source for livestock, Robbins installed a unique spring system that captures underground water that would otherwise have seeped to the surface. This watering system also has improved water quality, reduced erosion and created more usable hay ground.
To further diversify their grazing operation and provide additional benefits to quail and grassland bird species, Robbins has applied for cost share assistance through the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) to convert a portion of his fescue pasture to native warm-season grasses.
Steve Peoples, John Grice and Harry Robbins are just a few of the many Missouri landowners who benefit from the provisions of the Farm Bill. Because 93 percent of Missouri land is privately owned, the future of many wildlife species remains in the hands of landowners like them. The Department of Conservation is committed to helping all Missouri landowners find ways to derive maximum benefit from their land while enhancing the conservation of Missouri's fish, forest and wildlife resources.
For more information about the kinds of help available, contact your Department of Conservation private land conservationist or local USDA office. They will help you determine how best to achieve your objectives for improving the soil, water and wildlife resources on your land.