I would to say both of you have merit to the argument, as habitat is lost it allows for predation to occur easily. We have more people that see a native grass field as unproductive and Those that find it is far more economical to grow cotton, than grain crops. A second very sad issue was the Lack of a new farm bill, now losing funding to keep land in native grass land. Wildlife will take a hit as habitat lost occurs. https://www.capjournal.com/news/farm-bil...9bb156c7a9.html
At midnight Sunday, the 2014 Farm Bill expired and while important farm programs, such as crop insurance and SNAP will continue operating some, most programs will shut down unless Congress passes an extension of the law.
The farm bill’s conservation programs, which are some of the country’s most important conservation measures, mostly will be left in a sort of limbo until a new farm bill can pass, the old one gets extended or 2018 ends. If 2019 rolls around before an extension or new bill becomes law, most conservation programs would cease to exist. Until then, programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, broadly touted as one of the country’s most successful private-land wildlife habitat programs, won’t be able to enter into new contracts.
Landowners who choose to enroll some of their land in CRP enter into a 10-year contract with the federal government that requires them to plant and maintain grass or other wildlife habitat in exchange for rent. The landowner gets paid based on the land rental rates in the surrounding area. The idea is to pay farmers to use marginal farm land to provide taxpayers with environmental services such as cleaner water and wildlife while at the same time giving farmers a relatively stable source of income.
In South Dakota, CRP serves two important functions. First, it provides farmers and ranchers, the bedrock of the state’s largest industry, with a stable source of income when the prices of corn and soybeans are down. Second, CRP provides habitat for ring-necked pheasants, which are one of the bedrocks of the state’s second largest industry — tourism.
With commodity prices low and showing no signs of rising, farmers are increasingly looking for ways to take marginal farmland out of production, said Dave Nomsen, vice president for government affairs at Pheasants Forever, a conservation organization focused on pheasant conservation.
“We’ve got some of the highest demand for conservation, I think, we’ve had in decades,” Nomsen said.
The 2014 farm bill, written and passed during a period of relatively strong commodity prices, lowered the maximum number of CRP acres allowed to 24 million. That was down from 32 million acres in the 2008 farm bill. South Dakota’s number of CRP acres peaked in 2007 at 1.5 million. The next year, in 2008, the state saw a modest peak in its pheasant population.
South Dakota now has about 950,000 acres enrolled in CRP. Current CRP contracts shouldn’t be affected by the farm bill expiration. There were several farm bill conservation programs that did end on Sunday and won’t be continued in the event of an extension.
One of the most important for hunters was the Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP). The 2014 farm bill provided for $40 million worth of grant funding that states could use to pay for public access to private lands for such things as hunting, fishing, or birdwatching. Nomsen said, the loss of VPA-HIP probably won’t affect much in 2018 but could have an impact next year if there’s no new farm bill.
Other programs that ended on Sept. 30 include the Grassroots Source Water Protection program, which helped keep pollution out of water supplies. There also was the Small Watershed Rehabilitation program, which provided $250 million to help protect smaller watersheds and repair older dams in those watersheds. The Wetlands Mitigation Banking program, which allowed landowners to pay to offset unavoidable wetland destruction also will shut down.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is another federal conservation program that expired Sunday. It is completely separate from the farm bill but the LWCF provided access to more land for outdoor recreation and funded state, local and federal park improvements all over the United States.
The LWCF gets its money from federal offshore oil and gas drilling royalties. It was created in 1964 as a way to fund protections for water, nature and historic sites as well as to fund more and better local outdoor recreation access.
South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department administers the state’s portion of LWCF dollars. Since the program started sending money to states, said GFP Parks Division Chief Katie Ceroll, the LWCF has sent $42 million to South Dakota. Because LWCF grants are usually 50-50 matching grants, that $42 million means roughly $84 million has been spent on such things as new swimming pools, parks or restroom and shower facilities at state park campgrounds.
“It’s been such as success over the last 50 years,” Ceroll said of the LWCF. “There probably isn’t a county in this country that hasn’t been impacted by it.”
The LWCF has expired before. In September 2015, Congress wasn’t able to renew the law that created it. The LWCF was renewed in December 2015 as part of Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016.