PIERRE — Gov. Kristi Noem has announced that the James River Watershed Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) program is open to enroll new land.
“Our mission is to secure South Dakota’s outdoor heritage for the next generation,” said Noem. “One of the best ways we can do that is by promoting and preserving habitat. CREP is a unique program that improves water quality and creates wildlife habitat, preserving our way of life for our kids and grandkids.”
CREP is a federal and state partnership conservation program that allows participants to receive financial incentives from both the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) to voluntarily enroll acres into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for 10 or 15 year contracts.
Like CRP, CREP participants remove cropland and marginal pasturelands from agriculture production and establish native grasses and other vegetation on the land.
“Producers in the James River watershed are eligible for this program,” said Mark Norton, GFP Hunting Access and Farm Bill Coordinator. “We have 75,000 acres of CREP lands already, and it has proven to be a very popular program with landowners, as well as sportsmen and women. The difference between CREP and CRP is that public hunting and fishing access is required on CREP and participants receive a higher payment than if they just enroll in CRP.”
The re-opening of the CREP program is due, in large part, to the establishment of the South Dakota Habitat Stamp. The initial goal of CREP was to gain 100,000 acres, but the program exhausted its funding before reaching this goal.
“The creation of the Habitat Stamp has allowed South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to move towards full enrollment of the James River CREP by allocating a portion of those funds to reach the maximum enrollment of 100,000 acres,” Norton said. “We are excited to work with landowners to fully enroll the James River CREP; this program is a phenomenal opportunity for farmers, wildlife, and hunters.”
The signup period will remain open until the program reaches the goal of 100,000 acres. Currently, there are over 24,000 acres that can be newly enrolled in the program.
“Land currently enrolled in CREP that expires Sept. 30 of this year will also be eligible to re-enroll starting April 1,” said Norton.
For more information on CREP, contact your local USDA Service Center, FSA office, or Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist. To find your local FSA county office, visit offices.usda.gov.