Nearly 9,000 Acres of Playas Enrolled in Migratory Bird SAFE
In September, the USDA Farm Service Agency accepted 167 offers, totally 8,988 acres of playas and surrounding uplands, into the Migratory Bird, Butterfly, and Pollinator Habitat State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (Migratory Bird SAFE) practice. Of those offers, 125 of them were in western Kansas and 42 in western Nebraska.
“It’s really gratifying to watch the full build-out of this program — from its inception five years ago to the thousands of acres hitting the ground today,” says PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter.
This Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) conservation practice, which was first announced in January 2017, is a bit unusual. First, although they are not mentioned in the name of the practice, this program is entirely focused on conserving playas, a critical source of water for the wildlife and people in western Kansas and Nebraska. Second, this practice isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ program. It was designed after listening to landowners talk about their considerations and concerns about managing playas within their operations. Under the Migratory Bird SAFE, the conservation payment is set by the producers, who determine the amount of money they need to conserve the playas on their land and submit a bid.
“The success of the two signups to date for this SAFE, particularly in light of the relative absence of CRP-restored playas beforehand, has shown that not only can a reverse auction be successfully implemented beyond general signup, but also that it has the potential to increase the conservation bang per taxpayer dollar spent,” said Rich Iovanna, an agricultural economist for USDA Farm Service Agency who has been involved in the development of the Migratory Bird SAFE.
According to Matt Smith, PLJV Board Chair and Farm Bill Coordinator for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, the response from producers has been terrific. “This effort is a good model for how CRP can be tailored to meet the needs of both the resource and the landowner. We hope USDA will allocate additional acres to this practice so those producers who have a desire to conserve their playas can do so.”
The Migratory Bird SAFE is a grassroots, cooperative conservation effort that involves a number of partners in Kansas and Nebraska including USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service Partners for Fish & Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, Kansas Water Office, Nebraska Association of Natural Resource Districts, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, Nebraska Cattlemen Association, Nebraska and Kansas Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon of Kansas, and Nebraska Audubon.