Wrapping up potentially the most important meeting for the future of wildlife conservation and hunting, the White House announced new incentives to encourage landowners to take part in a wetland restoration effort aimed at establishing bottomland forests, which are extremely beneficial in providing wildlife habitats, restoring wetlands, controlling erosion and promoting carbon sequestration.

Producers who enroll acres into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) can now receive much higher incentives for the CP31 reforestation practice.

The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV) is particularly suited for the CP31 practice and can play a key role in the wetland restoration and reforestation needs of the country.

The economic benefit of CP31 for landowners is that through reforestation, idle land is bringing in additional income to help offset costs of row crops, such as the high costs of fuel and fertilizer. The conservation benefit is that landowners will be contributing to the bailout of a major wildlife and conservation crisis facing the country.

Heading into the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy, highly recognized authorities from the conservation community, along with directors of state fish and wildlife agencies, acknowledged that that the economy of conservation could be heading into a danger zone, as impacts on fish and wildlife from habitat loss increase and state fish and wildlife agency budgets continue to shrink.

An unprecedented collaboration of federal, private and landowner partnerships will be needed for the success of the health of habitat, clean water and ecosystems in the LMAV region and nationally during the next 10 years and beyond.

The announcement by the White House allows for landowners to benefit not only from the federal incentives, but also from private incentives at the same time. One private reforestation program that increases producer incentives and incomes along with the CP31 incentives is GreenTrees.

“GreenTrees believes that with the private incentives we offer, coupled with the federal incentives, the necessary large-scale enrollment of acres needed to restore critical ecosystems can and will be achieved,” stated Carey Crane, founder of C2I, LLC that created and manages GreenTrees.

“We commend President Bush and Ed Schaefer, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, for recognizing the role of reforestation in improving water quality, controlling soil erosion and enhancing habitats while encouraging the highest volume of public/private incentives possible for large-scale enrollment.”

When a landowner’s acres qualify for both programs simultaneously, producers have the potential to receive the highest volume of incomes ever offered to restore and enhance the natural resources of the LMAV region. The increased CP31 incentives announced by the White House rank at the top of CRP payments available — 50 percent cost-share, a 40 percent PIP, $100 per-acre SIP, and a 120 percent soil rental rate.

GreenTrees offers $350 per acre during the planting period, with added short- and long-term income coming to the producer in addition to, and independent of, the 15 years of annual CRP payments.

By reforesting acres, landowners will not only be improving their land for their own recreational enjoyment and value, but they will also be doing their part to improve the air, water and ecosystem of the LMAV. At the same time they will begin to grow a wildlife and conservation legacy for their kids and grandkids.

For more information about CP31 enrollment, landowners should contact their county FSA office. For more information about GreenTrees, contact Page Gravely, senior director for GreenTrees at (540)687-8959 or visit www.green-trees.com.