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Illinois Parks & Recreation
May/June 1995 • Volume 26, Number 3

Rx for CRP
Since 1985, the Conservation Reserve Program has created more than 800, 000 acres for wildlife habitat in Illinois. Now, 70 conservation, environmental and agricultural groups are asking Congress to continue CRP.

Leaders of about 70 conservation, environmental and farm groups throughout Illinois endorsed the federal government's Conservation Reserve Program and urged Congress to quickly approve continuation of the program.

"This program is critical to the future of conserving Illinois' biodiversity," said Conservation Director Brent Manning. "CPR lands are providing significant habitat for wildlife and buffer streams, wetlands, forests and prairies. To lose these lands will set back by decades our efforts to conserve natural resources."

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Beck Doyle said farmers, sportsmen and others have expressed strong support for the Conservation Reserve Program.

"The state Agriculture Department conducted public hearings across the state to find out what people in Illinois want to see in the next farm bill," Doyle said. "In hearing after hearing, people expressed hopes the Conservation Reserve Program will continue. The public as a whole has an interest in seeing highly credible lands taken out of production; CRP achieves that goal without placing an undue financial burden on the farm community."

The Conservation Reserve Program was authorized under the 1985 Food Security Act to address economic distress in the agricultural economy and reduce the impacts of farming on environmental quality. It was intended to reduce production of farm commodities and take highly credible land out of production,

Farmers are paid an annual payment for the life of their CRP contract to plant their land for habitat rather than crops.

Illinois farmers have enrolled 822, 000 acres of environ mentally sensitive land—that's double the acreage managed by the Department of Conservation throughout the state. It is estimated that more than 33, 400 acres of that amount have been planted with trees. Continued enrollment of this land in CRP is vital to preserving improved wildlife habitat, future forested acres and a reduction of soil erosion.

"The program has effectively improved the quality, abundance and distribution of wildlife habitat in agricultural areas nationwide," said Rick Young, a wildlife biologist and regional representative of Pheasants Forever. "Surveys of current participants indicate many will return their land to crop production when their contracts end and the majority of wildlife benefits accrued will be lost."

Illinois Farm Bureau President Ron Warfield said the program has helped to significantly reduce soil erosion.

"CRP has saved over 16 million tons of topsoil annually in Illinois, and has been a major component in farmers' efforts to achieve tolerable soil loss on the state's farmland by the year 2000," Warfield said. "This was a goal set by the state of Illinois in the early 1980s, and a combination of voluntary programs and the CRP have brought this goal within reach." The coalition is making the following recommendations:

* Extend the Conservation Reserve Program by allowing voluntary contract extension of partial or whole fields for optional periods of five or ten years or in perpetual easements.

* Promote new long-term contracts (10-year minimum) for protecting environmentally sensitive areas.

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56* Illinois Parks & Recreation * May/June 1995

* New bids for CRP contract rental payments should be based on productivity and environmental benefit indices in order to save on program costs.

* Give highest priority for CRP contracts in areas with the greatest environmental benefits, including wildlife habitat enhancement, human water supply protection, soil and erosion control, siltation reduction, wetland protection and stream bank protection.

* On all CRP contracts allow for the following management guidelines:

Constrain control of undesired vegetation to state- defined noxious species and limit to site-specific spot treatments rather than entire fields as preventive measures; discourage mowing on CRP fields during the prime reproductive period for ground-nesting birds by allowing emergency haying and grazing only when true emergencies exist.

* Maintain the current program goal of 45 million acres enrolled.

This article originally appeared in the May 1995 issue of OutdoorIllinois*

Illinois CRP Supporters
Alliance to Restore the Kankakee
American Agriculture Movement of Illinois
Arrowsmith Sportsmen's Club
Batchtown Sportsmen's Club
Coffeen Bass Club
Conservation Coalition
Delta Waterfowl Foundation
Ducks Unlimited
Franklin Creek Preservation Committee
Furtakers of America
Great Lakes Falconers Association
Illinois Agri-Women
Illinois Aquaculture Industry Association
Illinois Association of Meat Cutters
Illinois Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts
Illinois Audubon Society
Illinois Bass Anglers
Illinois Beef Association
Illinois Bowhunters Society
Illinois Central Bass Club
Illinois Corn Growers Association
Illinois Crop Improvement Association
Illinois Department of Agriculture
Illinois Department of Conservation
Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board
Illinois Environmental Council
Illinois Farmers Union
Illinois Farm bureau
Illinois Farm Development Authority
Illinois Federation of Hunting Dogs
Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resources
Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association
Illinois Fox Association
Illinois Lamb and Wool Producers
Illinois Pork Producers Association
Illinois Soybean Association
Illinois State Rifle Association
Illinois Taxidermist Association
Illinois Trappers Association
Illinois Tree Farm System
Illinois Wood Product Association
International Blackpowder Hunting Association
Kennekuk Road Runners
Lake Region Waterfowl Association
Lower 40 Duck Club

National Association of Handicapped Sportsmen
National Wild Turkey Federation - Illinois Chapters
Northern Illinois Anglers Association
Pheasants Forever-Illinois Chapters
Pioneer Valley Sportsmen's Association
Prairie Hills RCD, Inc.
Quail Unlimited - Illinois Chapters
Rackmasters Bowhunting Club
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Salmon Unlimited - Illinois Chapters
Society of American Foresters - Illinois Chapters
South Wilmington Sportsmen's Club
Sparta Saddle Club
Sportsmen's Letter
The Nature Foundation
The Wetlands Initiative
The Wildlife Society - Illinois Chapter
Trout Unlimited - Illinois Council
Trailers Unlimited

Two Rivers Resource Conservation & Development, Inc.
Waterfowl USA
Whitetails Unlimited - Illinois Chapters
Wildlife in Need Foundation

Illinois Parks & Recreation* May/June 1995* 57

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