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
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,"
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: