Bush announces habitat conservation initiatives

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

By Ben Holman

Nevada Daily Mail

Along with the new round of CRP sign-ups announced by President George W. Bush earlier this month came some initiatives aimed at expanding wildlife habitat. One will create 250,000 acres of habitat for northern bobwhite quail and the other will create 250,000 acres of wetlands and lakes in non-floodplain areas, a habitat for upland ducks, pheasants and sandhill cranes.

These initiatives have received tremendous support from hunter groups throughout the nation and, if employed by local farmers, could mean an increase in the population of many species of game and non-game birds.

Jef Hodges, Western Regional Director for Quail Unlimited, said that the wildlife community has been working to get habitat buffers approved by the FSA since 1996. "The introduction of this practice is seen as a major, let me emphasize, huge, tremendous, colossal, step in getting important quail and associated wildlife habitat on the ground in agricultural areas where it is lacking," he said.

Hodges said that while 250,000 acres spread out over 35 states doesn't sound like much, that amount of new habitat can influence over 2.5 million acres of overall quail and upland wildlife habitat. Twenty thousand acres of that have been allocated to Missouri, an amount that Hodges says will, with proper implementation, impact 10,000 to 20,000 40 acre fields across the state.

"What this new program means for Missouri farmers," said Hodges, "is that they can receive a positive return on field borders that typically supply lower yields than the rest of the field. It also means that they aren't driving their equipment close to hedgerows," where they could damage their equipment.

"What this program means for Missouri hunters is they can expect to see a modest return of quail and rabbits to the landscape, along with a host of other non-game wildlife species," he added.

He also said that simple announcement of the program is not going to make it happen. Sportsmen in the community will have to help to convince landowners of the benefits if they take part. The bobwhite buffers are only one part of a larger initiative by the wildlife community to restore the quail population to agricultural areas.

The quail habitat initiative, along with the wetlands preservation initiative are being touted as victories for sportsmen and conservationists nationwide.

These initiatives come at a convenient time for Vernon County. With the announcement of a new event, the Four Rivers Sportsman's RecFest, Vernon County is promoting itself as an excellent area for waterfowl hunting. If these initiatives are instituted by Vernon County farmers, the area may become even more appealing to sportsmen.

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