North Dakota Braces for Loss of 800,000 Acres of CRP Land

North Dakota hunters are bracing for the effects of a "perfect storm" of bad habitat news.

From this story in the Grand Forks (ND) Herald:

"There's a generation of hunters that knows nothing but liberal duck seasons and high bag limits, white-tailed deer behind every bush and remarkably high pheasant populations," said John Devney, senior vice president of Delta Waterfowl and an expert on farm bill-related issues. Now, those days of abundance appear to be fading into history. After three severe winters that hammered both deer and pheasants, North Dakota is down to about 2.5 million acres of CRP, with contracts on another 800,000 acres set to expire next September.

Throw in high commodity prices, which are encouraging farmers to remove shelterbelts and tile-drain sensitive areas to move water off the landscape faster, and the result is a perfect storm for wildlife and the habitat it needs to survive. "We've got a lot of stressors all happening at the same time," said Greg Link, conservation and communications division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.

"The attitude right now is to increase the cropland acres and farm as much as we can. There's a demand for food, fuel and feed, so let's have it. Dave Dewald, a biologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bismarck, said the federal agency has been meeting with the Game and Fish Department and conservation group Pheasants Forever to brainstorm options for life after CRP.
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The program's not dead, but it's certainly on life support. "When contracts expire, you're going to be looking at about 1.5 million acres on the ground in North Dakota," Dewald said. "We're cut in half, and that's going to be a big impact for wildlife._

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