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Conservation groups say CSP benefits wildlife, too

The nation's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is paying landowners to retire 39 million acres of cropland, gets credit from hunters for improving wildlife habitat with its cover of native grasses and trees.

But a newer program for working lands, the Conservation Security Program (CSP), is also benefiting wildlife and needs to be expanded, a group of conservation and wildlife organizations said Wednesday.

According to an analysis of USDA's "enhancement payments" to farmers signed up for the CSP in 2006, about half of the money benefited wildlife directly or indirectly, said Duane Hovorka, author of a report, "Hidden Treasures: The Conservation Security Program and Wildlife."

The study was financed by the National Wildlife Federation, the Isaac Walton League of America and the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Hovorka said that about a tenth of the payments rewarded farmers who had established wildlife habitat, but that reduction in pesticide use and other conservation practices supported by CSP also helped wildlife. The study showed wide variation in wildlife benefits, however. About 88% of the payments in Missouri enhanced wildlife while only about 26% did in Nebraska.

The benefits to wildlife would be greater if Congress restored funding for CSP in the next farm bill so that all producers could participate. Right now, it has been limited to just a few watersheds.

"Clearly, we need substantial increases in funding for the program," he said.

The nation's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is paying landowners to retire 39 million acres of cropland, gets credit from hunters for improving wildlife habitat with its cover of native grasses and trees.

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