The McKnight Foundation has awarded Pheasants Forever, Inc. a two-year grant of $50,000. The grant's funds will be used to promote landowner enrollment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (Continuous CRP). Continuous CRP enrolls small parcels of land as filter strips and riparian buffers along waterways for the purpose of protecting soil, improving water and air quality, and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. Pheasants Forever's proposal targets rivers in the Mississippi River watershed in northeastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota. Pheasants Forever's McKnight grant will focus some of those Continuous CRP promotion efforts on the Cannon, Cedar, Root, and Zumbro Rivers in Minnesota and the Turkey, Volga, and Maquoketa Rivers in Iowa.
Over the past five years, Iowa and Minnesota Pheasants Forever programs have encouraged landowners to enroll in the Continuous CRP. Since the program began, more than 200,000 acres have been enrolled across Iowa directly through the efforts of Pheasants Forever, state, federal, and local agencies, and foundations. In fact, those efforts account for over half of the 400,000 total Continuous CRP acres enrolled across Iowa.
While Minnesota's efforts are much newer, Minnesota has already enrolled over 30,000 acres through these promotion efforts. In both states, these programs have been funded by grants from the respective state's Departments of Natural Resources, Boards of Soil and Water, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and Pheasants Forever chapters among other organizations. All of these partners have been integral in promoting buffer enrollment.
CREP combines the federal Continuous CRP with Minnesota's RIM Reserve Program and can include perpetual easements on the land. In contrast, Continuous CRP contracts are for a maximum of 15 years. Upon approval, CREP II would offer additional protection through perpetual and long-term contracts. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed Minnesota's second-ever CREP. The first CREP protected 100,000 acres in the Minnesota River watershed. If approved by the USDA, CREP II would overlap the target areas of Pheasants Forever's McKnight grant. Consequently, Pheasants Forever could easily promote landowner enrollment in Continuous CRP and CREP II.