Farm Bill could be a game-changer for grassland birds

Farm Bill could be a game-changer for grassland birds

North American grassland birds are disappearing at an alarming rate. Since 1970, more than half of all grassland birds in the United States and Canada have disappeared, and species such as Bobolinks and Mountain Plovers are on track to lose another 50% of their populations over the past 50 years. coming years in the absence of conservation action. .

One of the surest ways to turn the tide in their favor could be US agricultural legislation known as the Farm Bill, which happens to be the largest source of conservation funding in the world. The current Farm Bill expires in September, opening the door for new, stronger conservation measures in the next version of the bill.

The American Bird Conservancy advocates the inclusion of measures that have the best chance of saving grassland bird species from extinction. This “Bird Saver” platform includes three key recommendations based on proven strategies.

The first recommendation is to expand one of the Farm Bill’s most effective conservation efforts, called the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP is a program where farmers agree to set aside environmentally sensitive land and plant native grasses and other ground covers in exchange for a financial incentive. The end result is a benefit for wildlife and a decent income for farmers.

ABC also recommends increasing funds for technical assistance to farmers seeking to implement conservation strategies. The new Farm Bill could make it easier for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to connect with farmers interested in providing wildlife habitat on their land, improving the success rate of programs like CRP.

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Finally, the Farm Bill could be used to implement a concept called Rest-Restore-Recapture. This set of ideas would encourage ranchers to rest parts of their pastures for a period of time, rather than continually grazing cattle on all of their land. Periodic rest has a number of advantages for both keepers and birds. It improves plant species diversity, soil stability and resilience to extreme weather conditions. It also increases the earth’s stored carbon and soil health and helps grass regrow fuller and richer for livestock.

“We have a lot of land in the West that has never been tilled and still has basic natural soil structure and native plants,” says Steve Riley, ABC’s Farm Bill policy director. “A big part of making this work better for wildlife is just being nicer to them. If we take some of the pressure off, it will heal itself. — Rachel Fritts, Writer/Editor at American Bird Conservancy

Want to advocate for a bird-friendly Farm Bill? Here’s how to contact your Representatives and Senators in Congress.