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Arkansas assists landowners with wildlife habitat plans

From the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

-- For Arkansas landowners who would like to see more wildlife use on their property, there are several avenues for assistance in improving the acreage for habitat.

One encouraging factor is that the first step doesn’t cost anything.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has several trained staff members in the role of private land biologists, and their primary duties are to work on habitat for wildlife that is in private ownership. With a private lands biologist stationed at each regional office, landowners can contact a biologist to see their land.

A private lands biologists can suggest what needs to be done on the land, and can give information on a variety of state and federal programs that provide assistances and partial payments for this wildlife habitat improvement. Some of the federal programs are complex, meaning landowners often need interpretation and guidance in considering them.

Enrollment  in a state or federal habitat improvement program does not mean control of the land is given away by the landowner. It is still private land with access limited to the owner and the owner’s guests.

A long-established habitat program is Acres for Wildlife, a joint venture of the Game and Fish Commission and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Plants in the form of seeds and seedlings that are used by wildlife are provided to landowners. Applications for Acres for Wildlife participation must be made by Feb. 1.

The federal programs come with a variety of alphabet labels – CRP, P, EQIP and others. Some of these flourish and diminish every couple of years with the passage of new farm bills by the U.S. Congress. Most are administered at local levels by Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency offices in each county. Most of the federal programs have timetables for enrollment.

The programs have many aspects. Some encourage landowners to convert cropland to wildlife habitat. Some focus on erosion control, animal manure control and ground water conservation and usage.

The planting of trees is involved with many of the programs as is the eradication of fescue from land formerly used as pasture.

For more information, interested farmers and landowners can contact their county Farm Service Agency, county Natural Resources Conservation Service or an AGFC regional private lands biologist at one of these offices by calling toll-free: Brinkley (877) 734-4581, Camden (877) 836-4612, Fort Smith (877) 478-1043, Jonesboro (877) 972-5438, Mayflower (877) 470-3650, Monticello (877) 367-3559, Hope (877) 777-5580, Calico Rock (877) 297-4331, Eureka Springs (877) 253-2506 or Russellville (877) 967-7577. David Long, coordinator for the private lands work, can be reached at (877) 972-5438

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