Private Landowners: The Key to Conservation Success
vegetative cover and an annual rental payment.
“We have the third highest acreage of this practice in the nation, even though we have less grain crop acres than neighboring Midwest states,” says Lisa Potter, MDC Farm Bill coordinator. “Nationwide, the habitat buffers have proven beneficial to quail and several songbirds compared to crop fields without buffers. We are eager to measure those benefits in Missouri.”
In 2008, the USDA Farm Service Agency introduced the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practice of the Conservation Reserve Program, which focuses on establishing habitat for quail, prairie chickens and other declining wildlife. Similar to other CRP practices, participants may receive cost share, incentives and annual rental payments. In Missouri, SAFE has enrolled 19,785 acres of quail, prairie chicken and grassland bird habitat.
MDC also helps landowners benefit from two other popular federally funded programs, NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and its Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). Both programs provide technical assistance to implement glade, savanna and woodland restoration projects, develop forest stewardship plans and enhance quail habitat.
Since 2002, more than 10,000 acres of prairie, glade, savanna and woodland have been restored through EQIP and WHIP on private land. Since 2008, more than $11 million in cost share has been provided to Missouri landowners to improve forests and habitats for wildlife— almost $3 million in cost share through EQIP and WHIP for forestry-related practices alone.
MDC has 57 full-time staff co-located in USDA service centers around the state to create a “one-stop” shop for landowners.
SOIL, WATER AND TEAMWORK
The Department also works hand-in-hand with the state’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) to help landowners manage and conserve the state’s natural resources. Found in each of Missouri’s 114 counties, these Districts provide financial incentives to landowners to implement conservation practices that help prevent soil erosion and protect water resources.
The Department helps many SWCDs purchase and loan out specialized equipment to help landowners create wildlife habitat improvements, such as tree planters, root plows, native grass drills and prescribed burn equipment. In turn, the SWCDs provide a means to loan the equipment to landowners and keep it in working order.
“We have a great partnership,” says Dalbom. “We organize educational workshops for landowners and bring together programs for school events. A SWCD will sponsor a prescribed burn workshop for MDC, and the Department will assist them with a Conservation Kids’ Day in