Farm lands needs to steer birds from oil

Published 8:31 pm Friday, July 23, 2010

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service is asking landowners to participate in a migratory bird habitat initiative that would steer the birds away from the coast’s oil-spoiled areas.

On June 22, the service announced the initiative to try to minimize the likelihood of southward migrating birds coming into contact with or using oil-impacted areas. These oil-impacted areas are along the Gulf Coast following the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig south of the Louisiana coast in April.

The initiative will also try to ensure adequate food sources are available to compensate for food resources that may be reduced, contaminated or eliminated because of the oil spill.

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The NRCS began priority ranking of the applications on Friday, which is just over one week before the scheduled August 1st cutoff date.

“We are grateful and proud of Georgia farmers and landowners for stepping up to help with this issue that is of such importance to the state and nation,” said James E. Tillman Sr., Georgia State Conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Through the initiative, NRCS will partner with producers to manage portions of their land to provide additional food and habitat for migrating birds. It is estimated that 40 million to 50 million birds migrate annually down the Mississippi Alluvial Valley to southern climes.

NRCS in Georgia will provide support to landowners through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) on private agricultural lands.

“There is more interest in participating in the initiative than available funding,” said Tillman.

“Although the next priority ranking of applications will begin July 23, the application period will remain open until August 1st to ensure everyone interested in participating has a chance to be part of this initiative and to make certain all available land has been identified so we can make the right ranking decisions.”

The NRCS is using EQIP and WHIP to help producers enhance habitat by flooding fields and establishing or maintain vegetation for cover and food.

NRCS is working with several partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, USA Rice, and the National CottonCouncil.

NRCS is a technical agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that works one-on-one with America’s farmers and ranchers, primarily on privately-owned lands, to help them in their efforts to improve and protect the natural resources.