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Federal Program Targets Landowners to Help Manage Wildlife

From Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
           
-- On May 1, farmers and ranchers in northwest Oklahoma will have another reason to plant native vegetation on their cropland. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently set up the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, targeting the restoration of vital wildlife habitat to help benefit threatened, endangered and other high-priority wildlife species.
 
The program, set up through the Farm Service Agency, was created to benefit wildlife in 16 states and covers up to 500,000 acres.
           
Over 15,000 acres of land in northwest portions of Oklahoma are eligible for enrollment in the state's mixed-grass prairie SAFE program, including parts of Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Woods and Woodward counties. Habitat improvements stand to benefit wildlife such as bobwhite quail and Cassin's sparrow, and in addition will improve habitat suitability for other grassland birds like the Bell's vireo, lark sparrow and lesser prairie chicken.
           
Incentives may be available for participating landowners, including annual rental payments for 14- and 15-year contracts, sign-on bonus payments of $100 per acre, up to 50 percent cost-share and a 40 percent practice incentive payment that would help with the costs of establishing permanent vegetative cover and an annual CRP maintenance payment. Management practices that may be implemented through the SAFE program include prescribed burning, mowing and strip disking.
           
Besides improving wildlife habitat, SAFE will help address issues of fragmentation and will indirectly help improve water and air quality, reduce soil erosion and provide hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities.
           
The Oklahoma mixed-grass prairie SAFE program will assign acres on a first come-first served basis. Offers for the program are accepted on a continuous basis beginning May 1, 2008. To find out if certain lands are eligible for enrollment in the SAFE program, interested landowners should visit their local Farm Service Agency office or call them at one of the following phone numbers:
Dewey: (580) 328-5331 x2
Ellis: (580) 885-7244 x2
Harper: (580) 735-2033 x2
Woods: (580) 327-3136 x2
Woodward: (580) 256-7882 x2
           
For more information about the SAFE program, go to fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/safe08.pdf

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