Wildlife, Landowner Groups Form “Coalition for Conservation”

Group to support Farm Bill Conservation Programs

In an effort to help build support for USDA natural resource conservation programs in the next federal Farm Bill, more than 20 wildlife, environmental and landowner organizations announced the formation of the Coalition for Conservation, a cooperative organization to help educate the public and policy makers on the benefits of Farm Bill conservation programs to landowners and the environment. “When you consider that more than 98 percent of Oklahoma is made up of privately-held land, we must have a strong conservation title in the next Farm Bill if we’re going to have good wildlife habitat and a healthy environment,” said Andy McDaniels, executive director of the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation. “Farmers, ranchers and other landowners depend on these programs to conserve our natural resources and improve wildlife habitat. We support their efforts and that’s why we have formed this coalition,” he said.

Made up of groups including the Oklahoma branch of the Safari Club International, Ducks Unlimited, Oklahoma Sierra Club, Quail Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Oklahoma Wildlife Federation, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and National Wild Turkey Federation, the Coalition for Conservation is designed to help spread the word on the benefits of the programs under the conservation title of the Farm Bill to both the wildlife habitat in Oklahoma and Oklahoma’s agricultural producers and private landowners. “When you see the improvement in wildlife habitat that has been brought about through programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP), the value of USDA conservation programs to Oklahoma wildlife speak for themselves,” said Clay Pope, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. “This, when combined with the fact that we aren’t seeing another Dust Bowl during the driest year on record in Oklahoma history, shows the benefits to the agriculture industry in Oklahoma and our environment,” he said. “When you consider the help these programs give to producers and to the environment and when you see what this means for the quality of life of all Oklahomans as well as the bottom lines of our farmers and ranchers, it’s easy to come together to support the conservation title of the Farm Bill,” Pope said.

The Conservation Title of the Farm Bill primarily deals with locally-led, voluntary natural resource programs under the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). This title of law also deals with the Conservation Reserve Program under the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). These programs generally work with landowners through financial assistance in the form of cost-share dollars and technical assistance through NRCS technicians to help protect and conserve soil, water, air and wildlife habitats. Last year more than $20 million in cost-share dollars were available to Oklahoma landowners through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) alone. Additional monies were also available to landowners through programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and more than 1 million Oklahoma acres are currently in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

“It’s great that agricultural producers and wildlife groups are coming together to support these programs,” Pope said. “Working together we can better educate producers on the programs available, and we can encourage the Oklahoma congressional delegation to support conservation programs that benefit both wildlife and farmers’ and ranchers’ bottom line.”