The most widely-used federal program that benefits wildlife is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Continuous CRP signups began June 9, and landowners can enroll into the program at any time.
Landowners can turn their farms into wildlife havens while receiving annual rental payments and up to a 90 percent cost-share to establish conservation practices.
- CRP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency and provides incentives to farmers who plant natural vegetation to reduce soil erosion, prevent nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from entering streams and lakes, and increase wildlife habitat.
- Implementing CRP practices can make habitat attractive to many wildlife species. One of the goals of CRP is to provide habitat for wildlife of local or regional concern, such as many ground-nesting and grassland birds, or to restore sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands and riparian buffers.
- The white-tailed deer is often an unintended beneficiary of CRP. Deer managers, deer hunters, and wildlife watchers can enroll acreage in CRP to realize wildlife habitat goals.
- Deer are often considered a forest species. However, Ohio’s premier big-game species does best in areas with a variety of habitat types, including many that landowners can create from options available through CRP. Habitat diversity is the key to deer management success.
- The best way to ensure deer will stay in an area is to provide ample cover – places where deer feel secure. CRP makes an area attractive to deer and other wildlife year-round. CRP benefits for deer involve providing bedding cover through the use of native warm-season grasses and early successional vegetation.
- CRP options such as tree plantings and pollinator habitat (wildflowers, legumes, and shrubs) help diversify the landscape, provide cover, and also provide food options for wildlife. Options such as windbreaks and riparian buffers provide deer and other wildlife species with travel corridors. Corridors connect larger patches of suitable habitat within a landscape dominated by row-crop agriculture. Deer are more likely to move through these corridors than across open fields, making them great places for a future hunting stand.
- ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists can provide technical guidance to landowners interested in CRP. Go to wildohio.gov for more information about Ohio’s wildlife.