From: Jay Hughes, Associated Press
Published January 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Farmers Can Receive Compensation for Creating Wildlife Habitats on Untilled Land

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Farmers in Arkansas who would like to leave acres of their land untilled to help create wildlife habitats can register for compensation under a new agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state.

Agriculture and wildlife officials said the measure will benefit both farmers and wildlife, in particular the state's declining quail population.

"This is one of the first practices that was specifically designed for wildlife. A lot of the other practices, wildlife was part of it, but it was secondary to erosion control and addressing other problems," said Brad Carner, quail program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Under the initiative, up to 12,000 acres of farmland in Arkansas can be enrolled to create "buffer zones" from 30- to 120-feet wide on cropland. To qualify, the land must have been farmed at least four years between 1996 and 2001.

The program is a facet of the USDA's Farm Service Agency Conservation Reserve Program. Farmers can contact their local FSA office to get more information.

The FSA will pay $100 for each acre enrolled and up to $65 a year per acre for the life of the 10-year contracts. Farmers are required to plant grasses and shrubs to restore native wildlife habitat. Incentive payments are available to help defray up to 90 percent of the planting costs.

Clayton Parr, conservation program chief for the FSA in Arkansas, said he expects much of the acreage enrolled to border ditches, low-lying areas or woods.

Carner said the buffer zones will provide transportation corridors for upland animals and nesting cover and brood habitat for grassland songbirds.

Source: Associated Press

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