Let us assist you in finding the right conservation program to meet your personal habitat and land use goals. As the nation’s leading upland wildlife habitat conservation organization, Pheasants Forever is working with farmers, ranchers, landowners, and natural resource agencies to accomplish its mission. To date, Pheasants Forever has impacted over 6.5 million acres in Nebraska through private land conservation programs, chapter projects, and partnerships. Contact us to schedule a field visit or to discuss enrollment opportunities.
Read on to learn more about conservation programs in Nebraska.
Federal Conservation Programs
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees a number of voluntary conservation-related programs. These programs work to benefit a large number of farming and ranching related conservation issues including wildlife habitat. Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists and Coordinating Wildlife Biologists work directly with these programs and are available to help walk you through the sign-up process.
Originally established in 1985, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), offers annual payments through 10-15 year contracts to participants who establish grass, shrubs, and tree cover on environmentally sensitive lands. CRP is the nation’s most successful conservation program, improving soil, water, and wildlife resources, while providing important financial payments to farmers and landowners. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), CRP payments average $4,455 per farm annually. In addition, CRP lands contribute at least $4.7 billion annually from hunting expenditures, much of which support rural communities across the nation. Such efforts benefit landowners and wildlife alike. There are approximately 700,000 CRP acres under contract in Nebraska.
Continuous CRP Practices
Under continuous CRP signup, environmentally sensitive land devoted to certain conservation practices can be enrolled in CRP at any time. Offers are automatically accepted provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements and the enrollment levels do not exceed the statutory cap. Unlike CRP enrollments under general CRP signups or CRP Grasslands, offers for continuous enrollment are not subject to competitive bidding during specific periods.
A look at the history of USDA’s The Conservation Reserve Program and how the program has played a major role in helping improve the lands, soil and water quality throughout the years.
State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement
SAFE practices provide the flexibility to meet the specific needs of high-value wildlife species in a participating state or region. Conservation practices currently offered under CRP are fine-tuned through SAFE to improve, connect or create higher-quality habitat to promote healthier ecosystems in areas identified as essential to effective management of high-priority species. USDA’s goal is to restore or enhance 500,000 acres of wildlife habitat.
Migratory Bird SAFE
The goal of this project is to enroll 20,000 acres of CRP in Nebraka and Kansas to improve habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, shorebirds, and water birds by restoring playa lakes.
Statewide Upland Bird SAFE
The goal of the Nebraska Upland Birds SAFE project is to enroll 58,050 acres to enhance habitat for upland wildlife such as upland game birds, including northern bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasant.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. By participating in EQIP, agricultural producers receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land. EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application “cut-off” or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is the largest conservation program in the United States. Through CSP, producers earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land. CSP contracts are for five years, with the option to renew for another five years.
If you are already taking steps to improve the condition of the land, chances are CSP can help you find new ways to meet your goals. CSP enhancements help producers go above and beyond the minimum conservation practice standard requirements to achieve a higher level of conservation. Whether you are interested in upland wildlife or pollinator habitat, conservation planners work one-on-one with CSP applicants to select enhancements that best fit their management goals and that will address resource concerns on the enrolled operation.
Through Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), NRCS works with partners and private landowners to focus voluntary conservation of working landscapes using target species as the barometers for success. Target species, such as the Lesser Prairie-chicken and Monarch butterfly, are used because their habitat needs are representative of healthy, functioning landscapes where conservation efforts benefit a much broader suite of species.
The Sandhills Project
Through the Sandhills Project, a state-identified priority, Nebraska landowners are helping restore the Sandhills landscape by improving rangeland health through prescribed grazing, prescribed burning, and eastern redcedar control. Improved forage for livestock and habitat for grassland wildlife is a win-win outcome.
NRCS offers technical and financial assistance through EQIP to help landowners improve the health of rangelands. This assistance helps producers plan and implement a variety of conservation activities, or practices, that benefit the landscape and many of the game and non-game species that depend on it.
Read more about the Working Lands for Wildlife program.
Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, the Regional Conservation Partnership (RCPP) is a partner-driver, locally-led approach to conservation. Projects are leading to cleaner and more abundant water, better soil and air quality, enhanced wildlife habitat, more resilient and productive agricultural lands and stronger rural economies.
Cropland Cover for Soil Health and Wildlife
In Nebraska,the lack of sufficient water, frequent drought and soil erosion cause significant impacts to yields and producers’ bottom lines. Similarly, vanishing habitat and increasingly intensive agricultural practices create struggles for wildlife. The Cropland Cover for Soil Health and Wildlife initiative encourages producers to plant diverse, wildlife-friendly cover crops and to leave tall stubble standing in fields. The project partners will implement EQIP practices to provide soil and water quality benefits while also enhancing valuable habitat for grassland birds including at-risk species and pollinators like honey bees and monarchs.
The initiative is a partnership between the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and Nebraska Environmental Trust.
State Conservation Programs
Nebraska has a variety of conservation programs vital to supporting our habitat mission thanks to the hard work and dedication of biologists, chapter members, and partners. Most importantly, thank you to the program participants who improve habitat and increase public access.
Corners For Wildlife (CFW) is a program unique to Nebraska that establishes permanent wildlife habitat on center pivot irrigation corners. Landowners enrolled in Corners for Wildlife receive 75% cost-share assistance for the cost of a highly diverse seed mixture and wildlife shrub thicket establishment. Depending on the cover practice selected, landowners also receive a contract payment of up to $100 per acre for 5 years. Download the program guidelines for more details on this unique program and options available. This is a very popular and sought-after program and funding gets obligated quickly every year! Contact your local Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists or NRD for information and program enrollment.
Corners for Wildlife is driven by funding and commitment from local Pheasants Forever chapters, the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET), Nebraska Game & Parks Commission (NGPC) and local Natural Resource Districts (NRDs). To date, this program has been awarded grants from the NET totaling $4,627,000.
Program Results since 1995
(Updated May 2020)
- Established 2,085 projects statewide.
- Planted 722,800 trees and shrubs.
- Established 15,126 acres of nesting cover.
- Worked with 19 Natural Resource Districts.
If you are interested in enrolling in the Corners for Wildlife Program, fill out the CFW Notice of Interest form and mail it to the address listed.
The Grassland Improvement Program (GIP) is designed to improve the health and diversity of grasslands and eastern red cedar control by using practices such as deferred grazing and prescribed burning. When paired with EQIP, GIP offers even more benefits and cost share for landowners. The Grassland Improvement Program is a one year grazing deferment followed by a prescribed burn and a rotational grazing management plan developed by a Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist. There are several Pheasants Forever developed Prescribed Burn Associations and training opportunities through basic and advanced burn workshops that can assist with landowner training and burning opportunities.
Since 2008, the Grassland Improvement Program has improved 291 projects on 39,800 acres.
This program is a partnership between Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever in Nebraska, the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET), the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission (NGPC), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
For more information and program enrollment, contact your local Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists.
In 2009, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) and Nebraska Pheasants Forever initiated the Open Fields and Waters (OFW) program to increase public access opportunities on private lands. OFW is a voluntary program that offers financial incentives to landowners willing to allow public walk-in access for hunting, trapping, and/or fishing. Today, there are 750-plus landowners in Nebraska who provide public access opportunities on over 374,000 land acres, 600 acres of ponds/lakes, and 41 stream miles.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields and other undisturbed grasslands are ideal for OFW, but other habitat types that provide high-quality hunting/angling opportunities also are considered: wetlands, woodlands, unfarmed draws or pockets, tall wheat and milo stubble, ponds, cool and warm-water streams, etc.
To enroll in OFW, contact your local Nebraska Game & Parks Commission office.
Nebraska Public Access Atlas
The Pathway For Wildlife Program (PFW) offers incentives to enhance wildlife habitat on cropland, working lands, and within local communities. Pathway For Wildlife is an economically viable opportunity to create high-quality habitat throughout Nebraska! Participants apply specific wildlife and pollinator conservation practices to benefit pheasants, quail, grassland songbirds, monarch butterflies, native bees, and other wildlife. Additionally, the program aims to reduce soil losses, encourage soil health and improve water quality. Please complete and return a Notice of Interest form if you wish to join us in creating a pathway for wildlife!
Pathway For Wildlife is a partnership program between Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission designed to bridge gaps between agriculture, urban, working lands and wildlife. The program vision is to incorporate organizations including UNL Extension, Nebraska Master Naturalists, the Nebraska Master Gardeners, FFA, and various city organizations having expressed interest in native habitat.
For more information and to enroll in PFW, contact your local Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist.
- No cropping history necessary
- Annual payment option
- Incentive payments
- 75-100% Cost-share
- 1 to 3-year contract
Pathway for Grasslands
Plant a native grass/wildflower seed mixture to transition unproductive cropland or degraded grassland to working lands better suited for the landowner objectives. This option also allows for grassland management practices including brush management, prescribed fire, shrub thicket establishment, and chemical control. Goal: 1,000 acres per year.
Pathway for Precision Ag Conservation
Plant a diverse cover crop mixture as part of a cropping rotation with benefits of soil health, weed competition, grazing utilization, wildlife and pollinator habitat providing awareness and an economic incentive to farmers considering alternatives. Goal: 1,000 acres per year. Limited to Rainwater Basin area.
Pathway for Community Habitat
Imagine native wildflowers blooming from April to October in backyard habitats and urban green spaces. Plant a native wildflower seed mixture, including milkweed for monarchs. Eligible project sites include city parks, colleges, libraries, churches, and other frequently visited areas. Goal: 150 plots total. No minimum size requirement, maximum size of 2 acres.
More Partner Programs
Nebraska conservation groups partner together to provide various options for our landowners and operators. Please follow the link to find additional resources that may not be listed above. http://conservationtoolbox.org/