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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


June 12, 1997
Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-2408

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WDFW offers habitat program advice

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is offering advice aimed at helping wild animals and fish while increasing farmers' chances of successfully enrolling in a federal program that pays them to create wildlife habitat on their land.

The agency is offering technical expertise to Washington farmers seeking to enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Department representatives have advice on plantings to benefit wildlife and will be on hand at U.S. Department of Agriculture offices this fall to help farmers seeking to enroll CRP acreage.

Unlike farm subsidy programs of the past, which were aimed at providing farm income, controlling crop production and reducing soil erosion, the CRP focus has shifted to providing stronger conservation benefits. Points are given for improved water and air quality, reduced soil erosion and increased wildlife habitat.

Washington farmers recently were allotted only 21 percent of the acreage they submitted for CRP funding, one of the lowest acceptance rates in the nation.

"We were very disappointed with the low acceptance rate and we think we can help improve the situation," said WDFW Wildlife Program Manager Dave Brittell.

"There are a couple of ways farmers can improve their environmental benefits scores and competitiveness in qualifying for CRP," said Dave Ware, WDFW upland game manager. "One is in the per-acre amount they ask for land enrolled in the program. The other way, where we can help, is by improving vegetation for wildlife and by bidding the more environmentally sensitive areas into the program. We can provide technical expertise and seek additional funding to help farmers pay the increased costs of planting vegetation most beneficial to wildlife. By working with farmers now, we hope to find ways to establish and maintain vegetation that helps more wildlife."

Several troubled state species, including salmon, steelhead, bull trout, pygmy rabbits, sage grouse and sharp-tail grouse, could benefit from habitat created on CRP acreage. Adding CRP acreage helps restore Eastern Washington's original shrub- steppe ecosystem and benefits stream banks and wetlands.

"If landowners would put in alfalfa, sweet clover and plant sagebrush, wildlife benefits from the CRP program would be significantly improved and scores farmers receive for environmental benefits with the program would increase dramatically," Brittell said.

Washington farmers have about one million acres enrolled in the federal program now, with 785,000 of those acres due to expire this year. Farmers applied to enroll 819,378 acres for another 10 years, but the USDA accepted only 172,013 acres. That means almost 613,000 acres could revert to crop production or livestock grazing, unless some of the rejected acres are accepted during a second 1997 CRP sign-up period this fall.

Farmers who want more information are encouraged to contact one of the following WDFW staff members in their area:

Name LOCATION Phone Number
Ted Johnson Walla Walla (509) 527-4418
Mark Grabski St. John (Whitman County) (509) 648-3680
Ron Fox Orondo (Douglas County) (509) 784-1047
Gretchen Steele Ephrata (509) 754-4624
Steve deGrood Yakima (509) 575-2740