Pivot corners will now be eligible for enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program’s “Habitat for Upland Birds” practice, according to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. The practice has become the trademark for bobwhite quail habitat creation and is commonly referred to as the “bobwhite buffers” program, but is equally beneficial to ring-necked pheasants.
Officially known as Conservation Practice 33, the purpose of this practice is to reverse the long-term decline of pheasants, quail and other upland bird populations by providing needed nesting and brood-rearing habitat adjacent to cropland. These important upland habitat components have declined due to more intense grazing and cropping practices – resulting in the elimination of weedy field borders, abandoned farmsteads and small disturbed areas loved by quail and pheasants. There are more than 240,000 bobwhite buffer acres currently enrolled across the country.
In recent years, however, applications for this type of habitat creation have slowed. To encourage more participation, USDA’s new policy focuses on farmland with center-pivot irrigation systems where there are circular areas of cropland with patches of land beyond the reach of irrigation. Until now, these patches – known as pivot corners – were only eligible for habitat creation when connected by a linear strip of grassland also enrolled in the program. The new policy allows producers interested in habitat creation to use disconnected pivot corners to help increase the population of upland birds.
“Over the last decade, bobwhite buffers have been our best tool for creating habitat specific to bobwhite quail’s needs. This pivot corner modification provides flexibility in creating more of that critical quail edge habitat,” explained Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s President and CEO. “We’re encouraged by this move from USDA to look for new ways to create habitat, and look forward to working with FSA and partners to enroll CP33 practices which will benefit quail, pheasants and other grassland species throughout the country.”
Interested landowners can enroll pivot corners in the Conservation Reserve Program at any time. Participants and land must meet certain eligibility requirements. For additional details, contact your local Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Farm Bill wildlife biologist
, or your local Farm Service Agency office