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MANAGING FARMLANDS FOR WILDLIFE Richard E. Warner, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Jeffery W. Walk, Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

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Presentation on theme: "MANAGING FARMLANDS FOR WILDLIFE Richard E. Warner, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Jeffery W. Walk, Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy."— Presentation transcript:

1 MANAGING FARMLANDS FOR WILDLIFE Richard E. Warner, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Jeffery W. Walk, Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy James R. Herkert, Illinois Department of Natural Resources

2 Introduction  Rapid technological change in agriculture has dramatically affected farmland wildlife  Wildlife management is often tied to soil and water conservation efforts  A systems approach is necessary to successfully integrate wildlife conservation with agriculture

3 Challenges to Conserving Farmland Wildlife ► Divergent goals of wildlife conservation and agriculture ► Changing farm conservation programs ► Lack of reliable knowledge ► Communicating the importance of wildlife to ecosystem functions ► Addressing positive and negative human-wildlife interactions ► Facilitating access to private lands

4 Shift from Diversified Agriculture to Intensive Rowcrop Monocultures has Caused Declines of Many Species in the Midwestern United States Crop Production Index (CPI) and harvest of farmland game

5 Changing Agricultural Practices are Implicated in the Widespread Decline of Grassland Wildlife Population trends from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (1966–2003) the eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna) (top) and northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) (bottom). Percent changes per year of – 1.5/year or worse (red) suggest overall population declines of >50% during the period.

6 Social Context for Managing Farmland Wildlife ► Most initiatives cater to farmers and hunters of farmland wildlife – a dwindling audience  People living on farms has declined from 23% in 1940 to <2% today; number of farms has declined 70%  Number of small game hunters declined 31% from  Many urban residents struggle to obtain access to private land ► Other ecological and economic values of conservation in agricultural settings are poorly communicated  Water purification, pollination, carbon sequestration, recreation, biological pest regulation, soil enhancement

7 Managing Landscapes for Wildlife Desirable Attributes of Major Landscape Elements ► Habitat patches: larger, connected, multiple, structurally and florally diverse ► Corridors: wider, continuous, redundant, structurally and florally diverse ► Farmland matrix: diverse, optimal juxtaposition, minimal disturbance at critical periods (e.g., mowing during nesting) Guidelines for Maintaining Ecological Function ► Self-sustaining populations that are suitable and achievable ► Preserve, enhance, or restore the structure and function of existing patches and corridors ► Create new patches or corridors to replace lost habitat ► Minimize negative effects and maximize positive attributes of the matrix ► Restore or mimic natural disturbance regimes

8 Farm Programs as a Context for Habitat Management ► Historically, programs diverted cropland from production to adjust commodity prices, promote conservation ► “Set-aside” programs have established wildlife-valuable early successional cover ► Programs reduce the hazards of farming disturbances at critical times for wildlife (e.g., the nesting season) Farmland diverted from production in the United States, 1956–2002.

9 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) ► The most important program of recent history for farmland wildlife ► At peak, >14.6 million ha (36 million acres) enrolled ► Idles environmentally sensitive farmland for 10–15 years to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and provide wildlife habitat ► Landowners receive annual payments based on local land-rental values and cost-share for establishing vegetation ► Trend over time has been more targeted, flexible “sub-programs” within the CRP  Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program  State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement

10 Distribution of Conservation Reserve Program, by percent of county enrolled, in the United States in Data from Farm Service Agency.

11 Other Contemporary Farm Programs Easement Programs ► Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) ► Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) ► Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) Working Lands Programs ► Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) ► Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) ► Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) All these farm programs are: voluntary, provide financial incentives, administered by the US Department of Agriculture.

12 Optimizing Farm Programs for Wildlife ► Identify Target Species and Communities ► Identify Physiographic Characteristics ► Recognize Issues of Spatial Scale ► Temporal Factors ► Planning and Coordinating Management Plans ► Work with Landowners ► Be Opportunistic and Flexible

13 Optimizing Farm Programs for Wildlife: Identify Target Species and Communities ► Traditionally, programs have been ‘first-come, first-served’ and driven by landowner interest ► Programs are increasingly structured to achieve specific outcomes  Targeted geographies with acreage allocations  Higher standards for restored vegetation  Minimum patch size, width ► Incentives often need to be changed to entice a restricted landowner pool  State or private “enhancement” payments  Increased cost share payments  Sign-up and practice incentive payments

14 Optimizing Farm Programs for Wildlife: Identify Physiographic Characteristics ► What natural features define the region? ► What was natural vegetation prior to agriculture? ► What significant habitat features define the wildlife community, including forests, wetlands, riparian corridors, intensive grain cropping, and livestock grazing? ► Are there remnant patches of natural vegetation or other significant semi-permanent vegetation from which to start? ► What life-history needs of target species are being fulfilled in the existing agricultural matrix? ► What life-history requisites are lacking?

15 Optimizing Farm Programs for Wildlife: Recognize Issues of Spatial and Temporal Scale ► What can be done a the patch (field) scale to benefit wildlife? ► What limitations or opportunities do surrounding lands and regional phenomena create? ► On what time-frame can habitat be created and when will a wildlife response be apparent? ► Does that time-frame match with the duration of a farm program?

16 Optimizing Farm Programs for Wildlife: Working With Landowners ► There is a direct relationship between effective interactions among biologists and landholders during the planning process and the subsequent success of the program ► Learn what farm operators want: the goals of the landholder (not those of the biologist) are likely to be applied and maintained ► Follow-up is essential  Diagnose and correct problems  Opportunity to emphasize long-term maintenance of vegetation  Facilitates reevaluating/updating the plan as conditions change  Creates opportunities for making additional contacts, expanding the program to other farms

17 Evaluating and Refining Programs ► Vegetation  Was desired vegetation established in the short- and long-term? ► Participation by Landowners  Did attitudes or knowledge change as a result of the program? ► Responses by Wildlife  Did population trend/abundance change?  Did key demographic parameters (survival reproduction) change? ► Interactions Between Wildlife and Habitat  Were changes in target wildlife due to the program or other factors? Did the evaluation occur at the right temporal and spatial scales?

18 SUMMARY ► Pressures to produce more per unit of land are increasing, but so is public will to achieve multiple natural-resource goals on farmland ► The spatial and temporal factors requisite for successful farmland habitat interventions are tied to a complex farming system with ecological and socioeconomic dimensions ► Wildlife managers need to be aware of and influence this system, ranging from regional policies and programs, to the practices that are used on the ground, and to the perceptions of landholders


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