For the second consecutive year, sportsmen-conservationists have received good news regarding the Conservation Reserve Program. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced another general sign-up for CRP, which will begin March 14, 2011, and continue through April 15, 2011, marking the second year in a row that USDA has offered a general CRP sign-up.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of the most effective conservation tools in existence today, and a second general sign-up is great news for wetlands conservation, waterfowl habitat, waterfowl and waterfowl hunters,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall said. “Maintaining CRP acres will translate into quality habitat and more ducks in the fall flight across the country each year.”

CRP provides a secure income to farmers, ranchers and other landowners as an incentive to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to resource-conserving vegetative cover, such as native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips or riparian buffers. CRP improves water quality, prevents soil erosion and provides vital nesting cover for ducks and other wildlife.

CRP provides critical upland nesting cover for ducks in the United States portion of the Prairie Pothole Region, one of DU’s highest conservation priority areas. Both native grassland and CRP continue to decline at alarming rates across the PPR. More than 1.5 million acres of CRP have disappeared from the PPR since 2007. Another 2.4 million acres are scheduled to expire from September 30, 2011, to September 30, 2012.

Ducks Unlimited is among several conservation organizations that have signed a partnership agreement with USDA to actively recruit farmers, ranchers and landowners to enroll in CRP.

“Over the past 25 years, support for CRP has grown thanks to strong backing from farmers, ranchers, conservationists, hunters, fishermen and other outdoor sports enthusiasts,” said Vilsack. “Not only has CRP contributed to the national effort to  improve water and  air quality, it has preserved habitat for wildlife, and prevented soil erosion by protecting the most sensitive areas including those prone to flash flooding and runoff. Today’s announcement continues the Obama administration’s effort to conserve sensitive areas and improve wildlife habitat.”

Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres, thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.