Farm Service Agency
Public Affairs Staff
1400 Independence Ave SW
Stop 0506, Room 3624-South
Washington, D.C. 20250-0506
Release No. 1580.06
Stevin Westcott (202) 720-4178
TIFTON, Ga., Nov. 14, 2006 - USDA officials today announced the results of two studies that show conservation practices are increasing populations of northern bobwhite quail throughout its range and sage grouse in eastern Washington. Both studies showed other grassland and shrubland bird species also benefited from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
"The studies offer good news for conservationists, biologists, hunters, bird watchers and others who care about the health of bird populations," said John Johnson, deputy administrator of USDA's Farm Service Agency. "We will use these findings to help establish conservation goals and measure our progress towards meeting these goals."
Johnson announced the studies' conclusions during his address today to the Longleaf Pine Alliance in Tifton, Ga. This year marks the 20th anniversary of CRP, the nation's largest private-lands conservation program.
In the northern bobwhite quail study, conducted in 2005 and 2006, Mississippi State University (MSU) researchers found that, generally, quail numbers increased in areas in CRP. When researchers analyzed land enrolled in CRP in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, they found almost a 3 percent increase in quail numbers.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the study of sage grouse populations in the eastern part of the state between 2004 and 2006. Researchers discovered the sage grouse population grew 12 percent between 1992 and 2006 after covers matured on CRP acreage. The increase is significant considering the population of sage grouse in this region had declined by 25 percent between 1970 and 1988, prior to the availability of the CRP. Researchers also found that sage grouse populations in an area not aided by CRP continued to decline, showing the ability of conservation acreage to positively affect a species in sharp decline.
CRP is a voluntary program through which farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. Today, more than 37 million acres are enrolled in the program. Besides providing wildlife habitat, plantings on CRP acres stop soil and nutrients from washing into regional waterways and contaminating the air. CRP provides numerous benefits to the nation, including preventing 450 million tons of soil from eroding each year and restoring more than two million wetland acres since its inception.