Conservation contractors help landowners convert farmland to wildlife habitat

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Many people want to encourage wildlife on their land but lack the time or specialized equipment to do the work themselves. Others would like to do the work for pay but lack the necessary knowledge and experience. Timing is very crucial for the success of establishing native grasses, shrubs and trees as well as the removal of unwanted species. The use of experienced, well-trained conservation contractors can help alleviate that pressure and ensure that your wildlife goals are met.

The following is an example of how successful conservation contractors can be.

Agriculture production dominates the landscape in Southeast Missouri. However there are many opportunities to enhance land for wildlife. This year marks the second year of the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program. This program allows landowners to enroll sandy soils into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). In return, landowners are offered incentive payments and rental payments for installing native grasses and woody cover on their property.

A total of three conservation contractors have been working in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the landowners to install the practices associated with the CRP programs. A total of 1,385 acres have been planted to native grasses and wildflowers. Along with these acres, over 100 down tree structures have been created and 4,266 shrubs have been planted. Some sites have been revisited by the contractors in attempt to complete the necessary components.

I visited with a contractor last week who returned to create more down tree structures and set boundary posts. He said that while he was posting the corners for the down tree structures he flushed a covey of 12 birds out from the structure that they created less than a week ago. He also informed me of several other farms where that has occurred.

Not only do quail find instant satisfaction from the creation of down tree structures, rabbits, mourning doves and many other species benefit from tree structures as well.

I often get asked by landowners who have completed habitat work in the past if I thought it would be necessary for them to purchase quail. If this story doesn't lead you to believe the saying from the movie "Field of Dreams" -- "If you build it, they will come" -- then I would recommend you spend a day with a conservation contractor to get his point of view.

If you have ever wished you had a job working outdoors with wildlife, you might be interested in the conservation contractor workshops. The conservation department and Missouri Agriculture Industries developed the workshops to fill the need for competent wildlife management work on private land.

Tim Kavan is the Missouri Department of Conservation's private land conservationist for Mississippi, New Madrid and Pemiscot counties.

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