An enormous area in the Great Plains is currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): 19.5 million acres (nearly 8 million ha) in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. This change in land use from cropland to grassland since 1985 has markedly influenced grassland bird populations. Many, but certainly not all, grassland species do well in CRP fields. The responses by birds to the program differ not only by species but also by region, year, the vegetation composition in a field, and whether or not a field has been hayed or grazed. The large scale and extent of the program has allowed researchers to address important conservation questions, such as the effect of the size of habitat patch and the influence of landscape features on bird use. However, most studies on nongame bird use of CRP in or near the Great Plains have been short-lived; 83% lasted only 1-3 years. Further, attention to the topic seems to have waned in recent years; the number of active studies peaked in the early 1990s and dramatically declined after 1995. Because breeding-bird use of CRP fields varies dramatically in response both to vegetational succession and to climatic variation, long-term studies are important. What was learned about CRP in its early stages may no longer be applicable. Finally, although the CRP provisions of the Farm Bill have been beneficial to many grassland birds, it is critical that gains in grassland habitat produced by the program not be off set by losses of native prairie.
Additional Publication Details
Grassland bird use of Conservation Reserve Program fields in the Great Plains
Fish and wildlife bene?ts of Farm Bill conservation programs: 2000-2005 update