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Wildlife Friendly Farmland

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

Three years ago, when Darrell Haeker bought a 205-acre farm in Gentry County, some of the fields looked like abandoned strip mines. The eroded land grew little vegetation, except blackberries. Soon after purchasing the property, Haeker enrolled nearly 53 acres in the Missouri Agroforestry Program, which is administered by the Conservation Department with the cooperation of other state, federal and private agencies.

With this cost-sharing program and advice from experts, including Resource Forester Lonnie Messbarger, Haeker planted more than 5,000 native trees-oaks, pecans, hickory and walnut-with fields of orchard grass and clover in between. The 10-year program guarantees a profit from the fields by providing payments when hay production doesn't meet a set amount due to drought and other causes.

Today his land has been transformed. "The trees are doing well," Haeker says. "A few eroded out, but most survived." Last summer, the grass began to take hold, and now Haeker often sees deer and turkey in the fields. Instead of worrying about erosion claiming more of his land, Haeker's concern is getting his hay fields cut before it rains.

Last year Haeker enrolled 110 acres in the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. This federal program offers landowners technical assistance and cost-share payments to help establish and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. He also plans to work with state and federal agencies to plant pastures in warm season grasses and draw up a timber improvement plan.

Haeker is one of many landowners across Missouri who are taking advantage of state and federal programs to make their land more productive for themselves, for future generations and for wildlife. "I would have improved this land on my own," Haeker says, "but these programs allowed me to speed up the process." What he found especially valuable was the advice he got from Conservation Department employees. "Everyone was helpful," he says. "They guided me throughout the projects."

To help landowners like Haeker, the Conservation Department recently set up Agricultural Services, a coordinated approach to helping landowners find the best and most cost-efficient way to improve their land and wildlife using state, federal or private programs. So far, six of the 10 regions in Missouri have a private land program leader who seeks out the specific programs that will aid landowners in the area.

"We are helping private landowners get more bang for their bucks while meeting the goals they have set for their land," says Mitch Miller, program leader in the

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