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Wildlife on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Lands (2004)

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Wildlife Research

Date Published:  2004

Number of Pages: 2

Author(s): Mike Schroeder, Matthew Vander Haegen, Steven Germaine, Steven West, and Bob Gitzen


In 2003 numerous landowners and farmers in eastern Washington allowed some of their lands to be used for wildlife research related to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). We are grateful for their interest in CRP, and for their cooperation in this study. This report provides a brief update on the progress of that research.

Sagebrush-grassland habitat (shrub-steppe) historically was the dominant habitat in eastern Washington. Today, less than 40% of this shrub-steppe remains, and much of it fragmented and/or isolated from other similar habitats. Loss of once extensive shrub-steppe communities has greatly reduced the habitat available to a wide range of associated wildlife including sage-grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, sage thrasher, loggerhead shrike, Brewer’s sparrow, sage sparrow, white-tailed jackrabbit, sagebrush vole, and sagebrush lizard.

The CRP is currently the only large-scale effort to restore habitat that may be used by shrub-steppe wildlife in the Columbia River Basin. Administered by the US Department of Agriculture, this voluntary program pays farmers to take farmland out of production for periods of at least 10 years to achieve conservation objectives including reduction of soil erosion and provision of wildlife habitat. In Washington alone, over 1 million acres of converted farmland has been planted to native and non-native grasses under the CRP.

Because the CRP has enormous potential to provide habitat for many shrub-steppe species, we designed a study to examine CRP in Douglas, Lincoln, Grant, and Adams counties. We selected 32 CRP fields to compare with 16 areas of native shrub-steppe. The specific goals of the research are to: 1) compare wildlife populations in CRP lands with those in nearby native shrub-steppe and 2) compare wildlife among CRP fields with different characteristics. This is the first study of this type in the Columbia Basin.