Landowners Assisting Wildlife Survival

By Dave Beffa and Tim Ripperger | November 2, 1996
From Missouri Conservationist: Nov 1996


This 1996 article is obsolete and the program referred to in the article is no longer available.

Food is nature's heat source. Living cells in the body of warm-blooded creatures release energy in the form of heat when they break down or "burn" food.

Unfortunately, high quality food for wildlife can be scarce during winter. Natural food sources have in many cases been displaced by farms and, thanks to current trends toward larger fields, cleaner farms, fall plowing, and more efficient harvesting equipment, spilled grain or unharvested edge rows are frequently not present when the critters need it most.

These same agricultural trends also eliminate much of the cover that wildlife needs for protection from the elements and from predators.

To improve conditions for wildlife in Missouri, the Conservation Department in the fall of 1994, began a new landowner incentive program to provide winter food and cover for wildlife.

"Landowners Assisting Wildlife Survival" (LAWS) provides cash payments to qualifying landowners who leave rows of corn, milo or soybeans near cover for wildlife. The program is administered by the Department of Conservation's Protection Division.

The first year, 84 landowners in five pilot counties participated. The program expanded to four additional counties in 1995, when a total of 158 farmers participated.

In the first two years of LAWS, the Conservation Department contracted for 2,292,684 feet (434 miles) of wildlife food in 10-foot wide strips located near cover. The crops purchased during the first two years included 91 acres of corn, 108 acres of milo, and 328 acres of soy beans. Costs averaged about four cents a foot ($224 per mile) for a total of about $97,000.

The program expanded in 1996 and now provides food for upland wildlife throughout the state.

LAWS is especially popular in Missouri's agricultural communities, where it encourages farmers with large land holdings to leave food for wildlife next to cover.

LAWS complements the Conservation Department's Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) which assists landowners with small acreages. WHIP will continue to be a priority program for conservation agents, but the LAWS program provides incentives to large farms to benefit wildlife.

To enroll in LAWS, farmers should contact their conservation agent, who will survey fields to determine where crop strips left standing will best benefit wildlife. The program's guidelines require 4- to 10-row crop strips to be left alongside suitable cover.

Landowners are paid for the unharvested strips based on average market prices and average yields. Landowners must agree to leave crop strips unharvested and free from livestock use until March 15 following the year the crops were planted.

The Conservation Department hopes to sign up landowners in every county. Whether you are a farmer, a person who enjoys watching wildlife, an avid hunter, or someone who is interested in establishing good conservation practices, LAWS is for you.

For more information about the Landowners Assisting Wildlife Survival Program, contact your local conservation agent or a Missouri Department of Conservation office.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Bryan Hendricks
Art Director - Ara Clark
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Patrick Kipp
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Block
Circulation - Laura Scheuler