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New CRP Contract Requires Species Protection

by | May 27, 2021 | Delisting | 0 comments

A Nebraska landowner received a new contract last week to re-enroll a portion of his lands into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service. Specifically, the contract is for “re-enrolling current CRP into another CRP contract to provide wildlife habitat and soil erosion control.”  

This new contract, under the Biden Administration, came with a new restriction.  Re-enrollment into the program now requires the landowner to provide habitat for the “Swift fox.” While the fox is not on the federal endangered species list, it is listed on the Nebraska endangered species list, and protection for the species habitat is being encouraged by conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund.

Under this contract, if the landowner re-enrolls to help provide habitat for the species, he will be required to: (1) “plant native herbaceous species suitable for the site,” and (2) “survey for dens according to protocol prior to ground disturbing activities.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species website shows the known range for the habitat to be the eastern edge of Colorado and southwestern edge of Nebraska.  Other known locations are in Canada, where The Nature Conservancy Canada has been active in efforts to protect the fox’s habitat.

A concern for landowners considering enrolling in the CRP program, or similar conservation programs, should include the possible restrictions on their lands and businesses if the species is placed on the federal candidate, threatened, or endangered list while their lands are enrolled in the program.  As reported in the April 27th edition of LMNS, “The Endangered Species Act requires all federal agencies to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when there are potential species’ impacts or modification of habitat as a result of the agency’s authorization, funding or carrying out of an action. (See ESA USDA Directives)”

Prior Administrations may not have required the full measure of this provision to be enforced. However, given the priority the Biden Administration has placed on controlling 30 percent of America’s lands under some form of conservation effort — which they refuse to define — landowners should be very careful and make the most informed decision when considering enrolling in the offered programs.

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