Illinois landowners can help protect grassland wildlife by enrolling eligible land in the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). SAFE is a practice of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that provides incentives for landowners to restore grassland and wetland habitat. Any property with a cropping history in the targeted enrollment areas is eligible.
SAFE was started by the US Department of Agriculture in 2008 to give states the flexibility to address high-priority wildlife issues. Locally, a partnership of major conservation organizations including The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, Illinois Audubon Society, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources worked with the US Department of Agriculture to tailor the program to benefit quail and grassland wildlife. Target areas were selected for the expected benefits for quail and grassland wildlife. Eligibility for SAFE is not based on soil erosion or close proximity to a riparian area. Enrollment is limited to 10,300 areas among target areas in Clay, Clinton, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Marion, Richland, and Washington counties.
“Before fall harvest gets into full swing, we encourage landowners with property in the target areas to contact their local USDA Service Center, get the facts on the incentives being offered, and make an informed decision on whether SAFE makes sense for their operation,” says Jeff Walk, conservation planner for The Nature Conservancy. “For odd-shaped fields, low-productivity soils, or fields far from your base of operations, SAFE might be the best bet.”
In addition to competitive annual rental payments, SAFE offers participating landowners continuous enrollment, a signing incentive payment, and additional cost-sharing for establishing the new habitat. To determine if property is within a targeted enrollment area and to enroll in SAFE, landowners should visit their local USDA Service Center. More information on this SAFE project can be found on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website at www.dnr.state.il.us.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.