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Missouri landowners have shown vast interest in participating in the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), says J.R. Flores, state conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Because so many applications have already been received, Flores said NRCS will rank applications on July 23, which is a week before the August 1 cutoff date.
“I am grateful and proud of Missouri farmers and landowners for stepping up to help with this issue that is of such importance to the state and nation,” Flores said.
Through the initiative, NRCS will partner with producers to manage portions of their land to provide additional food and habitat for migrating birds. It is estimated that 40-50 million birds migrate annually down the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.
NRCS in Missouri will provide funds to landowners through two components — one for private agricultural lands through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and another for lands enrolled in NRCS’ Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
Flores said Missouri has received 500 applications for the initiative, potentially impacting 130,000 acres. He said the application period will remain open until August 1 to ensure that everyone interested in participating in MBHI has an opportunity to apply and to help identify all available land. But only applications received by July 23 are guaranteed to be ranked and considered for current funding.
“We want to make sure that we make the right ranking decisions because it looks like we will have more interest in participating than we will have available funding,” Flores said.
Through the agricultural lands component, NRCS will provide payment incentives for flooding existing farmed wetlands, prior-converted croplands, or other lands that can provide immediate habitat. The WRP component addresses food habitat needs for species expected to be significantly impacted on WRP easement land. It will provide habitat features that are appropriate for the area and habitat management methods that are not currently in use.
In addition, NRCS is using EQIP and WHIP to help producers enhance habitat by flooding fields and establishing or maintaining vegetation for cover and food.
NRCS is working with several partners including the Missouri Department of Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, USA Rice, and the National Cotton Council.
On June 22, NRCS announced the initiative to try to minimize the likelihood of southward migrating birds coming into contact with or using oil impacted areas. The initiative will also try to ensure adequate food sources are available to compensate for food resources that may be reduced, contaminated or eliminated because of the oil spill.
NRCS is a technical agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that works one-on-one with America’s farmers and ranchers, primarily on privately-owned lands, to help them in their efforts to improve and protect the natural resources.