USDA Abandons Plan to Put Habitat Into Production
Audubon Victory Protects Grassland Birds
A plan being considered by the United States Department of Agriculture to open up millions of acres of private land into agricultural production was abandoned in a July 2008 decision. The Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, has been a vital resource for farmers, wildlife, consumers, and American taxpayers for over twenty years. Under the program, farmers receive payments for planting trees and grasses, or restoring wetlands, on land that would otherwise be under cultivation. Currently more than 36 million acres are enrolled in the program. The USDA proposal would have allowed farmers to leave the program if they chose to put the land into production.
Audubon has advocated in favor of the program for years. Benefits from the CRP have been widespread. The new wetlands and grasslands have greatly improved soil and water quality and provided habitat for many species. Ninety bird species have been observed using CRP land. Six species on Audubon's WatchList use CRP land for breeding, including one species, Henslow's Sparrow, which is severely imperiled. Many common bird species facing rapid declines also rely on CRP land.
CRP land also sequesters cabon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming. The land holds million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent to taking millions of cars off the road. It also saves millions of pounds of sediment and nutrient erosion.
Audubon applauds the decision. The CRP has been a backstop for bird species, many of whom are experiencing rapid population declines as a result of industrialized agriculture, sprawl and global warming.
For more information, read Audubon's 2008 Congressional testimony on bird declines (Microsoft Word document).
Find out more about Audubon's widely publicized Watchlist and Common Birds in Decline reports.