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Southern Iowans have unique opportunity to implement quail habitat

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 10:36 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES – Southern Iowa landowners interested in improving habitat conditions for bobwhite quail have a first-in-the-nation opportunity through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Through a new State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) project called Early Successional Quail Habitat, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is making 40,000 Iowa CRP acres available for habitat improvement in 35 southern Iowa counties.

Early Successional Quail Habitat combines management techniques to provide quality brood-rearing habitat, native vegetation for nesting habitat and wildlife food plots, and allows for the establishment of shrubs and tree edge feathering to provide winter covey headquarters.

Landowners may sign up through the continuous CRP to enroll new cropland into the Early Successional Quail Habitat opportunity, or SAFE may be used to re-enroll existing general CRP acres that meet eligibility requirements.

Alan Lange, resource conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said FSA, NRCS and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are collaborating on the project.

“This is a unique CRP opportunity for southern Iowa landowners,” Lange said. “We are the first state to offer this type of management option. We feel restoring top-quality winter, nesting and early successional habitats will increase Iowa quail populations.”

Lange said the selected counties historically have the strongest quail populations and other grassland bird species and pollinators will benefit as well. Land in the lower three county tiers of Iowa are eligible, along with Cedar, Harrison, Muscatine and Scott counties.

Following are some of the Early Successional Quail Habitat requirements:

• The landowner must enroll at least five acres.

• At least 25 percent of land enrolled must be managed as early successional habitat, and the remainder must be managed as nesting cover, with the option to include winter covey headquarters or food plots.

• Participants can enroll multiple locations in a field or on a tract.

• Managed harvesting for hay and biomass, and routine grazing are not allowed.

NRCS recently developed a wildlife plan for Early Successional Quail Habitat fact sheet. To learn more about the plant species, seeding rates and management in the plan, visit http://bit.ly/2Quail.

For questions or to sign up for Early Successional Quail Habitat, call or visit a local USDA service center.

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