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Published on: Feb. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 7, 2010

My favorite melody has only two notes. It isn’t played on the radio or CD player. It comes to me best through open windows on bluebird spring days, the kind of days that you wish every day could be like. The melody is the whistle of the bobwhite quail.

I grew up on a dairy farm in quail country during what we consider the boom years for quail. Those boyhood experiences have always made me want to live in the country and have my own small farm on which to “cultivate” my family as well as wildlife, especially quail.

Thanks to the Conservation Reserve Program, I was able to create great quail habitat on a farm my family owned in northwest Missouri. CRP is the nation’s largest private-lands conservation program, with more than 1.5 million acres enrolled in Missouri alone.

Through this U.S. Department of Agriculture program, farmers enroll land in 10- to 15-year contracts and agree to plant grasses or trees in crop fields and along streams. The plantings help prevent soil and nutrients from running into streams and affecting water quality while providing wildlife habitat.

I managed the CRP land with food plots, burning and light disking. My sons and I edge-feathered the wooded fence lines and sprayed out invading fescue and smooth brome.

The CRP on that farm helped produce some of the most memorable quail experiences of my life, including one particular summer walk, when we discovered 70 to 75 baby quail scattered in groups along the trail. Imagine trying to take a bird dog on a leisurely summer morning walk with that many quail around!

If one of your favorite melodies is the bobwhite-quail whistle or, perhaps, the resonating booming of prairie chickens, you have a new opportunity to restore these declining wildlife species to your land.

State Areas for Wildlife Enhancement, a CRP practice just unveiled by the USDA, seeks to make CRP a more targeted and focused program in addressing high-value wildlife-habitat restoration. SAFE also enables conservation partners in Missouri to propose areas where new CRP acreage may be established to fulfill the habitat needs of quail, prairie chickens and other high-priority wildlife species.

Eligible producers in these areas may enter into new CRP contracts with the USDA Farm Service Agency. FSA will offer participants an annual CRP rental rate equivalent to soil rental rates for the county plus an annual maintenance payment. Also, the producer is eligible for cost-share assistance of

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