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The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill offers renewed hope for conservation-minded landowners who are looking for ways to benefit wildlife habitat on their property without drastically losing production revenue from farming or other agricultural land uses.

Roughly $5 billion was earmarked in the bill for conservation funding in the next five years. Most of the money goes to programs that benefit private landowners who want to restore and maintain wildlife habitat on their property.

"Only 13 percent of Arkansas is publicly owned land, and Game and Fish owns very little of that, relatively speaking," said Chris Colclasure, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission deputy director. "That leaves 87 percent of the land where wildlife habitat restoration is needed in private hands."

Wildlife management cannot be accomplished simply through the relatively small islands of publicly managed land, he said.

Many species, such as northern bobwhite, wild turkey and waterfowl, require large areas of connected habitat to thrive. That requires the help of many private landowners working together. Conservation programs through the farm bill enable landowners to do this at very little cost.

"We can help landowners apply for these grants to create the habitat and work with them to focus their efforts in the most efficient methods of management," Colclasure said. "Because we are working on a landscape level, we can help coordinate one landowner's efforts with others nearby to create an end product that is much more valuable for all than if they work independently."

One of the most notable additions to the new bill for Arkansas landowners is the establishment of a pilot program to help combat feral hogs on private land.

The program will receive $75 million over the next five years to help landowners with trapping and using technology to control feral hogs causing damage to their crops and property.

Colclasure is particularly interested in the farm bill's continued funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Improvement Program. This program is similar to other Natural Resource Conservation Service programs that enable landowners to receive compensation for habitat development on their property, but it goes a step further in adding a monetary incentive for landowners to allow public access for hunting on enrolled acres.

Landowners interested in learning more about farm bill programs should contact their local Game and Fish private lands biologist, available at www.agfc.com/privatelands.

Sports on 02/12/2019

Print Headline: Farm Bill benefits Arkansas conservation programs

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