Private Landowners: The Key to Conservation Success
provide both technical and financial assistance to Missouri farmers and landowners. This partnership enhances and maintains wildlife habitat while simultaneously improving soil and water quality. Since 1981, the active partnership between MDC, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) have helped Missouri’s landowners protect, restore and enhance wildlife habitat in many ways, most significantly through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Missouri is one of the top 10 states in the nation in acres of habitat conserved in both programs.
“Wildlife depends upon healthy soil and quality water, the same as people do,” says NRCS State Conservationist J.R. Flores. “Our partnership with MDC provides the opportunity to work with Missouri landowners and show them that it is possible to enhance soil quality, water quality and wildlife habitat on the same acres. For many years, Missouri has been a leader in the management of natural resources to benefit wildlife. Part of the reason is the willingness of federal and state agencies to work together for the common good.”
The Farm Bill’s CRP program provides multiple benefits to Missouri citizens. CRP allows landowners with highly erosive land to establish permanent vegetation, such as grass or trees. In return for temporarily taking the land out of production, the landowner is paid a certain amount per acre each year. Missouri currently has approximately 1.4 million acres enrolled in CRP. CRP has saved thousands of tons of soil from being lost through erosion, and has improved water quality, improved soil health and provided wildlife habitat.
WRP acreage in Missouri exceeds 140,000 acres, putting Missouri in the top five states for this Farm Bill program. WRP helps to remove cropland from production that experiences repeated flooding, expensive crop damage and excessive soil erosion. The restored wetlands benefit people throughout entire watersheds by enhancing water quality by naturally filtering and trapping nutrients, chemicals and sediment. They also provide excellent fish nurseries when connected to the main channel, as well as wildlife habitat for ducks, geese, amphibians and shore birds.
The Farm Bill’s Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds program provides excellent habitat for quail and other upland wildlife while helping farmers reduce herbicide use and expense on crop edges, where production is often poor. To date, Missouri has enrolled more than 34,000 acres of native-grass field borders along cropland edges. Landowners receive cost share for establishing