CRP

Farmers and landowners enrolling acres in the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program have a new practice available to them.

Patrick Feller / Flickr Creative Commons

The Texas Panhandle has seen a high number of wildfires in recent years, as climate change and drought take their toll. Last year alone, grass fires in Potter, Gray, Wheeler and other Panhandle counties burned more than half a million acres and killed four people.  

Now, as The Texas Observer reports, that problem may be about to get worse. Experts say a federal initiative called the Conservation Reserve Program has exacerbated the fire risk.

Farmers depend on productive, sustainable land, clean water and air and healthy animals to make a living. To help create those conditions and protect ecosystems, they get help from conservation programs that make up about 6 percent of the $500 billion federal farm bill.

nps.gov

The Texas Panhandle may be headed for an ecological disaster.

As The Texas Observer reports, the Llano Estacado could be undone by conservation efforts put in place to save the region from the Dust Bowl. At issue is the Texas Panhandle’s natural predilection for encouraging wildfires.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As farmers across the Midwest have simplified the landscape and plowed up grassland to grow more corn and soybeans, habitat for pheasants, quail and other grassland birds has become increasingly scarce and their numbers are falling.

In Nebraska, wild pheasant concentrations have fallen 86 percent since their peak in the 1960s. The pheasant harvest during hunting season in Iowa is off 63 percent from the highs reached in the 1970s. In areas that used to be overrun, you’ll struggle to find a pheasant now.