A national survey of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participants on environmental effects, wildlife issues, and vegetation management on program lands

Introduction

A national survey of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contractees was completed to obtain information about environmental and social effects of the program on participants, farms, and communities. Of interest were observations concerning wildlife, attitudes about long-term management of program lands, and effectiveness of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) assistance in relation to these issues. Surveys were delivered to 2,189 CRP participants with a resultant response rate of 64.5%. Retired farmers represented the largest category of respondents (52%). Enhanced control of soil erosion was the leading benefit of the CRP reported. Over 73% of respondents observed increased numbers of wildlife associated with lands enrolled in the program. The majority of respondents reported CRP benefits, including increased quality of surface and ground waters, improved air quality, control of drifting snow, and elevated opportunities to hunt or simply observe wildlife as part of daily activities. Income stability, improved scenic quality of farms and landscapes, and potential increases in property values and future incomes also were seen as program benefits. Negative aspects, reported by a smaller number of respondents, included seeing the CRP as a source of weeds, fire hazard, and attracting unwanted requests for trespass. Over 75% of respondents believed CRP benefits to wildlife were important. A majority of respondents (82%) believed the amount of assistance furnished by USDA related to planning and maintaining wildlife habitat associated with CRP lands was appropriate. Nearly 51% of respondents would accept incorporation of periodic management of vegetation into long-term management of CRP lands to maintain quality of wildlife habitats. Provision of funds to address additional costs and changes in CRP regulations would be required to maximize long-term management of program lands. Additional, on-ground assistance related to management of CRP, and other agricultural lands, to maintain wildlife habitats was commonly identified as a need by survey respondents.

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