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Conservation Corner

Wildlife coming back

Thu, October 04, 2012

From Connecticut to California, and from Mississippi to Montana, across our entire country, wildlife habitat has been surely and steadily improving in the past 20 years. Most wildlife depends on private landowners to provide the habitats they need to survive, and farmers, ranchers, and other stewards of private lands all across the country are responding to that need.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has a long legacy of helping farmers and ranchers conserve soil, water, wildlife and other resources on private lands. Over the last 20 years, we and our conservation partners have used new USDA conservation programs to help tens of thousands of landowners establish millions of acres of productive fish and wildlife habitat throughout the country.

Restored wetlands and grasslands, conservation buffers in crop fields, newly planted trees and other habitat are working well with wildlife reintroduction and conservation programs of state fish and game agencies and private wildlife organizations. Together, in many cases the result is a dramatic return of wildlife diversity and population to levels of 50 to 100 years ago.

For example, farmers have converted about 35 million acres of environmentally-sensitive cropland to grass, trees or other vegetation.

USDA programs have helped triple the pheasant population in South Dakota and double it in North Dakota, Ohio and Minnesota. In Missouri, more than half of all bobwhite nests occur in grass planted through the program, though it covers only 15 percent of the landscape.

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse are on the increase in Colorado, and prairie chickens have quadrupled in Minnesota and returned to parts of Texas. At the turn of the century, there were no wild turkeys in Iowa; now, wild turkeys number in the thousands and are found in nearly all of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Only one bald eagle nest could be found in Iowa in 1977; now there are more than 100 nests.

Private landowner and USDA efforts to improve coldwater streams in the Midwest have led to the return of natural trout reproduction in an increasing number of streams.

Bald eagles are among the many wildlife species making a comeback on privately owned lands in America.

Did you know….

The bald eagle’s binocular vision enables it to see a rabbit a mile away, while it is flying high on air currents. The bald eagle became the national symbol of the United States in 1782 and is protected by Federal law.

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Maximize conservation for wildlife

Wed, October 03, 2012

Whether it’s in your back yard, on a small acreage, or on a large farm, most soil and water conservation practices you put on your land have some benefit to wildlife. But if you really want to see more wildlife as a result of your conservation work, you need to think about the impact you have on wildlife with every step you take to manage your land. You also need to be sure the Conservationist and others you work with know one of your goals is to increase habitat.


Case in point: common cool season grasses are often easiest and least expensive to get good ground cover to control soil erosion. But some cool season grasses have little value to wildlife—a Conservationist who knows you have an interest in wildlife will more likely recommend using native plants. The increased cost of using native grasses may be offset by higher rates of cost-share from the federal government, or help from one of a number of local conservation and wildlife groups.

To maximize your conservation practices for wildlife:

1) Use native grasses and forbs.

2) Place wildlife plantings near water.
 
3) Use plants that offer food and important cover for wildlife.

4) Use a variety of grasses, trees and shrubs.

5) Use maximums rather than minimums for sizes of conservation plantings.


Use grasses, trees and shrubs in conservation buffers and connection corridors between larger habitat areas; use No-till planting for residue cover for small birds in the winter; plant and fence off grasses, trees and shrubs around a farm pond; use more rows, wider and longer, in windbreaks; and plant blocks of native grasses and forbs between wetlands and crop fields to give grassland birds nesting and cold weather cover.

A grass filter strip helps save soil and improve water, but to maximize for wildlife, expand to a riparian buffer that has multiple rows, mixes plant types and uses natives.

Wildlife Ways
Did you know….
Quail feed and roost as a unit in winter, posting a sentry when they feed and facing outward in a circle when they roost. 8 of every 10 bobwhite quail hatched each year will not live to be a year old.

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Disc to give wildlife a food source

Tue, October 02, 2012

What’s the easiest, cheapest way to provide new food to quail, turkeys, songbirds and
other wildlife? And at the same time create nesting and brood-rearing cover for young ones?


Disc.


Discing disturbs the soil to promote the growth of new, smaller plants that young birds can navigate. The new plants then offer seeds as well as a draw for insects that young birds need as a food source. Many of the new plants will be weeds Expect to see more of the same type of weeds that exist before discing; if there are noxious weeds or others you don’t want more of, then you won’t want to disc in that area.


Creating a disc plot.


While it’s easy to disc an area and create the plot, it will pay you to consider where you can get the most good from it locate a place next to some good permanent cover a brushy fence row, woodlot, or near brushy areas along a stream or pond. You could disc in either spring or fall, but fall may be better because discing will help set seeds from ragweed, sunflowers, beggarweeds and other plants that offer quality seeds to birds.


Monitor, disc again.


Watch the plot over the next few years. You will want to disc again—likely in three years-when it looks like the plot isn’t producing much seed. If you have several plots, you can rotate the discing schedule so you disturb at least one of the plots each year, or part of a plot each year. The diversity of plants offered with various stages of succession after discing will be better for wildlife.


Strip disc grasslands.
Light discing provides more insects and desirable seed at a lower cost than planting food plots, and is an excellent way to enhance grassland habitat for bobwhite quail and songbirds.
If you have large grassland fields with dense sod dominated by a single species, such as smooth bromegrass you have a good candidate for strip discing. Light contour discing of 25-foot to 75-foot wide strips, separated by strips of undisturbed grass that are at least twice as wide, gives the best of both worlds to wildlife. The disced areas produce forbs and legumes which produce seeds and attract insects, and the undisced area will provide nesting cover. For more information, visit the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Management Institute’s website at www.whmi.nrcs.usda.gov
  or the NRCS home web site at www.nrcs.usda.gov


Wildlife Ways Did you know…
.
An essential habit bobwhite quail seem to enjoy is called dusting. They scratch a small bowl in the ground, leaving a few inches of finely ground soil to dry. They periodically bury their breast in the bowl of the “dust bath” and shower dust across their backs with their beaks and feet.


                          NRCS~ Helping People Help the Land

 

 

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