USDA Launches New Bobwhite Conservation Pilot and Announces General Conservation Reserve Program Signup

USDA Launches New Bobwhite Conservation Pilot and Announces General Conservation Reserve Program Signup

On March 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the launch of a new Working Lands for Wildlife’s Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project, as well as the signup dates for USDA’s General Enrollment signup in the Conservation Reserve Program (General CRP). Both conservation opportunities give producers tools to conserve wildlife habitat while achieving other conservation benefits, including sequestering carbon and improving water quality and soil health. The General Conservation Reserve Program signup will run from March 4 to 29, 2024. The Working Lands for Wildlife Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project is a new effort supporting voluntary conservation of private working lands to benefit northern bobwhite quail and East-Central grasslands conservation.

“The USDA has a long track record of fostering and supporting the vital relationship between agriculture and conservation, and the Conservation Reserve Program and new Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project help our producers be good stewards of their lands and boost wildlife populations at the same time,” said USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie when he made the announcement during the Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever annual convention in Sioux Falls, SD. “These efforts demonstrate the power of USDA’s Farm Bill conservation programs to conserve wildlife habitat, protect clean water and address climate change in partnership with farmers, ranchers, forest owners and conservation organizations, like Pheasants Forever, across the country.”

The Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project, offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through Working Lands for Wildlife, provided dedicated funding of $13 million, for fiscal year 2024, in new assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. This is for producers to help the bobwhite and other game and non-game species by managing their working lands for early successional habitat while meeting their land’s natural resource and production goals.

This new pilot also includes funding to support producers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project supports the 5-year, 7-million-acre goal of the Working Lands for Wildlife Northern Bobwhite, Grasslands and Savannas Framework for Conservation Action unveiled in 2022 by USDA. The Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project will include almost 20 climate-smart practices being deployed voluntarily on private lands, including field borders, brush management, tillage management, prescribed burning, prescribed grazing, forest stand improvement and herbaceous weed treatment.

Producers and landowners interested in either opportunity should contact the FSA and NRCS at their local Service Center. Those interested in General CRP should apply by March 29, 2024. Those interested in Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project should contact NRCS to sign up now.

March 15, 2024