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GF&P offering a new conservation opportunity

PIERRE -- Monday marked the first day for South Dakota landowners in the James River watershed to enroll environmentally-sensitive land through a new program that will provide additional incentives to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Through a unique partnership between the Game, Fish and Parks Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, landowners have the opportunity to set aside agricultural acres that meet certain criteria into a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

Plans call for the program to set aside 100,000 acres in the James River watershed that will improve water quality, provide flood control, reduce soil erosion, and provide recreation access. The CREP will give agriculture producers another option for managing their land for financial incentives that are up to 40 percent higher than the normal rental rate for CRP land.

The James River watershed is an area of critical importance to South Dakota wildlife, and is an area that can provide a valuable expansion of public access opportunities in the eastern part of the state.

"All lands enrolled in the CREP program will be open to public fishing and hunting," GFP Secretary Jeff Vonk said. "The James River corridor has been a primary pheasant area for the past 60 years. We have the opportunity to produce valuable nesting cover for pheasants as well as other wildlife that depends on wetlands and grassland.

"We have seen a reduction of 500,000 acres of CRP in the last five years. CREP will help mitigate those losses in an area where we can maximize benefits to upland nesting game birds like pheasants. In addition, certain tracts of expired CRP acres in the project area may qualify for re-enrollment in CREP."

Sign up for the program started Monday. Landowners interested in more information on CREP may contact the GFP District Office in Huron at 605-353-7145, their local USDA service center or a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologist (

"CREP is a win-win-win for agriculture producers, wildlife, and sportsmen," Vonk said. "This program will provide an economically sound land management option for landowners, thousands of acres of habitat to benefit wildlife, and access to private land for hunters and anglers."

More information on the CREP program is available at this link to the Farm Service Agency Web site: