Farmers and private landowners can receive financial incentives to improve wildlife habitat by enrolling in Farm Bill conservation programs.
Among these programs are the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Conservation Reserve Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. These programs are designed to conserve soil and water quality as well as create and maintain beneficial wildlife habitat. The bobwhite quail has been identified as a priority species in South Carolina and the 2002 Farm Bill.
A general Conservation Reserve Program signup will be held through Friday, April 14, and landowners should contact their local Farm Service Agency office for information on eligibility and sign-up procedures. Landowners should contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office for information on Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. Information regarding quail management is available from the DNR Small Game Project at (803) 734-4306 in Columbia.
“Quail and other wildlife are no longer a by-product of typical farming operations,” said Judy Barnes, small game biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “These species, which once flourished in an agricultural landscape, require special considerations in order to thrive in today’s landscape. Federal conservation programs provide an economic incentive for farmers and other landowners to create wildlife habitat.”
Simple practices such as the establishment of field borders, filter strips, and riparian buffers, if implemented properly, can provide a tremendous benefit to wildlife, prevent erosion, and preserve soil and water quality. These practices increase grassy, shrubby areas, which provides necessary nesting and brood-rearing habitat for quail, grassland songbirds and other species of wildlife. Other practices beneficial to wildlife include the establishment of hedgerows and field windbreaks, shallow water areas for wildlife and prescribed burning pine stands. Practices are eligible for funding under the above-mentioned programs and may include up to 75 percent of establishment costs, as well as annual rental payments, depending on the program.
A portion of South Carolina is in the Conservation Reserve Program’s Longleaf Pine Conservation Priority Area. Under this program, landowners whose fields meet the cropping history and soil type requirements can retire cropland by establishment of longleaf pine. Longleaf pine, which was once the dominant pine species throughout the coastal plain of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic region, has been replaced in many areas by faster-growing loblolly or slash pine.