July 12, 2021

Conservation Challenges and Opportunities – Focus of CSF’s Midwest Policy Forum

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager, and Kent Keene, Senior Coordinator, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy


Why it matters: Efforts designed to achieve conservation successes naturally vary from place to place. Even within the same region, these objectives can vary between properties, specifically between privately owned properties whose owners hold different values and goals for their land. Fortunately for those landowners interested in contributing to conservation efforts, there are a variety of voluntary state and federal programs designed to achieve conservation objectives while maintaining the overall profitability and functionality of their farm or ranch system. These programs may have major implications in the growing national discussions about conservation in the United States.

Successfully enacting conservation programs on private lands can be a challenge due to the variety of needs and goals that exist among landowners. Fortunately, the United States has a strong track record thanks to the success of voluntary programs that encourage landowners to incorporate conservation considerations. This includes the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a long-standing Farm Bill program that pays landowners who voluntary transition lands from crop production to a conservation practice in return for an annual rental payment. CRP and other voluntary federal and state programs will play a critical role in achieving current conservation goals.

During a recent regional policy forum hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, CSF’s Midwest Staff and Jim Inglis, Pheasants Forever’s Government Affairs Director, spoke with legislators from around the Midwest about current conservation challenges and opportunities. Specifically, this discussion centered around the role of private lands in the growing conversations around conservation that are taking place at a national level. With property in many midwestern states held primarily by private landowners, voluntary private land conservation programs are critical to achieving conservation objectives while respecting the property rights of private landowners.

For sportsmen and women, private land conservation efforts are important to our heritage. For example, there is a clear link between acres enrolled in programs like CRP and the success of upland bird hunters. This success is the direct result of increased habitat availability created through these programs. Likewise, many hunters benefit from access to private lands provided through programs like the Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentives Program (VPA-HIP) which allows states to provide rental payments and habitat management assistance to landowners who voluntarily agree to provide recreational public access to sportsmen and women. In return, these sportsmen and women often stimulate local economies with their pursuits.

CSF will continue to support voluntary conservation and sportsmen access programs like CRP, VPA-HIP, and others. Further, we will continue to encourage lawmakers to focus on the success of these and other voluntary programs to achieve conservation successes across the United States.

CSF thanks Title Sponsors, Reynolds American and Pheasants Forever Inc. & Quail Forever, and Supporting Sponsors, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and Boone and Crockett Club, for supporting this forum.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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