May 2012 IWLA - Missouri River Initiative Report
By: Paul Lepisto – Regional Conservation Coordinator
Table of Contents
Missouri River Update
American Rivers – Most Endangered Rivers List
Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)
Missouri River Watershed Education Festival
Missouri River Clean ups
Missouri River Clean Boat Event
Missouri River Flood Task Force
News and Notes
Missouri River Update
Latest Forecast Predicts below Normal Runoff into Missouri River Mainstem Reservoirs
Warm and dry weather this spring has resulted in below normal runoff into the Missouri River mainstem reservoir system, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). This comes a year after the upper basin experienced historic runoff causing record releases from the six reservoirs. Runoff above Sioux City in April was only 63 percent of normal, bringing in 1.8 million acre feet (MAF) of runoff compared to a normal amount of 2.9 MAF (an acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre one foot deep). The lower runoff combined with a forecast for low precipitation in the upper basin resulted in the below normal runoff forecast for 2012.
Mountain snowpack above Fort Peck in MT peaked at 97 percent of normal, while snowpack in the Fort Peck to Garrison, ND reach peaked at 88 percent. Last year mountain snowpack peaked at 140 percent of normal above Fort Peck and 136 percent of normal in the Fort Peck to Garrison reach. Wyoming's snowpack is down to 22 percent of average compared to 220 percent of average at this time last year.
The current forecast calls for 21.6 MAF of runoff above Sioux City which is 87 percent of normal. A normal runoff year brings in 24.8 MAF of water. Runoff for the 2011 calendar year totaled 61.0 MAF, 246 percent of normal and the highest amount in the ACEs’ 114 years of detailed record-keeping.
Many Repairs Needed Following the 2011 Flood
The Missouri River dams sustained damages during the 2011 flood. The ACE identified over 100 repair projects at the six dam sites that will be completed this year at an estimated cost of $151 million. This is part of an estimated $234 million in repairs that will be done to dams and related flood-control structures along the Missouri through 2014. Damage assessments continue and repair contracts are being let. Divers are conducting inspections and ground-penetrating radar is probing spillways. The ACE expects to have most of the critical repairs completed by the end of the year but said it may take three years to complete all the work.
ACE Begins Finalizing Surplus Water Applications at Lake Sakakawea
The ACE is moving forward in finalizing applications for access to water out of Lake Sakakawea in ND. In a final report to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (ASA), Jo-Ellen Darcy, the ACE determined that it can temporarily make available 100,000 acre feet of water for municipal and industrial (M&I) water supply use. This will allow M&I water users’ access for up to 10 years. Darcy agreed in making available this water and directed the ACE to proceed with processing applications for access to the water, and to enter into agreements for M&I use of that water. Darcy directed the ACE to pursue rulemaking in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act to establish a nationwide pricing policy for surplus water. Darcy directed the ACE not to charge for M&I surplus water withdrawals from Lake Sakakawea during a transitional period, pending the outcome of the rulemaking process.
The ACE will develop a proposal to set up a pricing model, inform the public, and allow time for public comment and agency responses. The administrative law rulemaking process is expected to last about 18 months. All M&I water users will be required to pay for that use according to the new pricing policy that is established as part of the rulemaking process.
Governor Jack Dalrymple told Darcy that North Dakota should be exempted from any one-size-fits-all policy that fails to take into account the Missouri River’s unique circumstances, including its sustained, year-round flows through Lake Sakakawea. The Governor said ND gave up about 550,000 acres of prime farmland and resources for construction of the reservoir and any move by the ACE to charge the citizens of ND for their own water is unacceptable. The ACE says it will look to implement this practice on all six Missouri River reservoirs in the future.
Missouri River Governors Meet Again About Flood Issues
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer said he had early warnings that last year's Missouri River flooding would be severe. He read about flooding downstream in North Dakota while getting reports that the snow melt in the Rocky Mountains had barely started.
Todd Sando, North Dakota's chief state engineer, had similar worries about the potential torrent of melting snow and the shrinking room for storing the water in the Missouri's reservoirs. The information Schweitzer and Sando were relying on was collected by state agencies and was not readily available to others.
On May 23rd a group of officials from eight Missouri River states agreed to provide more data to the ACE to improve its future flood forecasts. Last summer, record heavy rains and snowmelt contributed to a historic Missouri River flood that swamped cities, broke levees, overran Interstate 29 and caused billions of dollars' worth of damage from Montana to Missouri.
Governor Dalrymple said the magnitude of last summer's Missouri flooding was too great for improved water data collection to make much difference. However, he said having better information about water runoff can help the Missouri River’s dams handle flooding and would give property owners more time to react to flood conditions.
The meeting included officials from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Wyoming. Brigadier General John McMahon, the top military commander of the ACEs’ Northwest Division, said state agencies, Indian tribes and colleges could help to improve the ACEs' ability to gather water data that could be used for flood predictions.
Doug Kluck, regional climate services director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said a network would be useful for gathering information about frost depth and soil moisture content as well as the water content of snow. "It not only helps flood prediction and knowledge, but it also helps the other side of the equation. When things dry out, we never know how dry it's really getting," Kluck said.
McMahon said state and federal officials should push for widening the river's flood channel, including levee setbacks from the river and buyouts of farm land within the Missouri's flood plain. "From my perspective, what we should be about is investing in these repairs in smarter ways, so that we're doing things that make long-term sense, instead of just repairing as was," McMahon said.
Dalrymple suggested establishing limited, experimental initiatives to carry out that goal, saying it would be too difficult to push for it all at once along the Missouri's entire length. Property owners may respond favorably if they believe they're being fairly compensated, the governor said.
House to Debate Energy and Water Spending Bill
The U.S. House is expected to begin debate the Energy and Water spending bill soon. The bill establishes fiscal 2013 spending levels for the Energy Department, ACE and Bureau of Reclamation. The bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee last month. Sportsmen and environmentalists blasted a provision in the bill that blocks funding for a proposed policy that strengthens federal Clean Water Act protections.
For the ACE, the bill would provide $4.8 billion, slightly more than the $4.731 billion requested by President Obama. Congress typically pads the president's request for the agency. The bill would provide $1.89 billion for navigation projects and studies. It also would fund flood control efforts at $1.45 billion, including $451 million for critical dam safety improvements. Citing the large number of ongoing Army Corps projects, House appropriators included $324 million for essential flood control and navigation projects, to be prioritized by the corps.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the energy and water 2013 spending bill last month. It has not had a floor vote.
The League is leading a nationwide effort to get congressional support for the ACEs’ Missouri River Recovery Program and for re-funding of the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP) - the long term restoration process for the river and the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS) – a first-ever review of the river’s eight authorized purposes to see what management changes should be made. Both MRERP and MRAPS were de-funded in the final spending bill passed in December.
Lake Oahe Smelt Update
Since last year’s flood anglers have expressed concern about the amount of rainbow smelt, the primary food source for walleyes and other game fish, washed out of Lake Oahe. SD Game, Fish and Parks biologists have estimated that Oahe lost between 40 and 80 percent of its rainbow smelt last summer. Surveys this spring indicate poor spawning by the smelt that remained. GF&P attempted to provide a larger prey base for walleyes and other game fish by stocking some gizzard shad in Lake Oahe this spring. Each female shad is capable of producing as many as 300,000 eggs. There are plenty of walleyes that need to be fed. Surveys conducted by the GF&P last August indicated walleye numbers in Oahe to be at their highest level since the mid-1990s.
If you want to get the latest fishing information for the Missouri River in South Dakota go to the Great Lakes of South Dakota website at: http://www.sdgreatlakes.org/report/
The Missouri River Again Makes America’s Most Endangered Rivers List
The national environmental group American Rivers placed the Missouri River on its Most Endangered Rivers list on May 15th. The group said the historic 2011 flood and what it calls outdated flood management practices that threaten public safety along the river were the reasons for the listing. The Missouri ranked fourth on the annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Rivers in the country.
The Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point. The 2011 flooding — which caused billions of dollars in damage, affecting tens of thousands of lives — showed the need to look differently at the Missouri River. American Rivers said there is complete reliance on dams and levees for flood control along the Missouri. American Rivers believes that this should be the last line not the only line of defense.
The League helped American Rivers organize a news conference on May 15th at Clay County Park near Vermillion, SD. Joining me at the event was Jim Redmond from the Sierra Club, Marian Maas for the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, and Jerry Wilson a Clay County, SD resident. The groups involved called for using the floodplain and wetlands to absorb and store flood water along the lower river, and advocated for a more holistic, natural approach for managing future floods. The message was we need to look at the entire basin in how we manage the river.
The Missouri River is no stranger to the Most Endangered Rivers list. The river was one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers from 1994-2002. American Rivers began this list in 1986, and the Missouri River has been on the list more than any other river.
At the news conference the groups called on Congress to fully fund some key programs that would improve river health. The river needs an effort involving stakeholders and science to determine what should be in the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS), the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP), and the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP).
The channelization for navigation on the lower third of the Missouri River makes flood damages worse and puts people at higher risk. A healthy river will benefit fish and wildlife, recreation and the economy of the entire basin. By including the Missouri River on this year’s list American Rivers is hoping for real improvements on the river and to flood policy. Read the entire Most Endangered Rivers Report at: http://www.americanrivers.org/our-work/ ... ed-rivers/
Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)
The Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC) took the first step in supporting implementation of seven actions recommended by an independent science advisory panel designed to help recover three species on the endangered species list. This initial support was reached at its meeting held May 8-10 in Rapid City, the 17th meeting of the committee. At its July meeting the committee will finalize its recommendations to the ACE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
MRRIC also provided an initial recommendation to the ACE on priorities for their 2013 Annual Work Plan. This work plan details how the ACE will allocate a proposed $90 million in federal funds as part of the Missouri River Recovery Program that is working to recover three listed species, the pallid sturgeon, piping plover, and least tern.
Michael L. Lawson, author of the book Dammed Indians, and Dammed Indians Revisited was a guest speaker during the MRRIC meeting and at an evening event. Thanks to the IWLA SD Division and the Rapid City Ikes Chapter for co-sponsoring the evening event. Lawson described how Tribes along the river were impacted by the construction of the Missouri River dams and the flooding of hundreds of thousands of acres of bottomlands.
Also at the meeting MRRIC members had an extensive question and answer session with ACE officials on the surplus water issue. Members expressed concern about impacts to the authorized purposes with the selling water from the reservoirs. The ACE said the water sold from the reservoirs could come from an authorized purpose that has not met its anticipated expectations as outlined in the 1944 Flood Control Act (navigation). I asked what about impacts to an authorized purpose that has greatly exceeded the anticipated expectations (recreation). They did not have an answer to the question at the meeting.
MRRIC is comprised of stakeholders, representatives of tribal and state governments, and federal agencies throughout the Missouri River Basin. The Committee advises the ACE and FWS on management of the Missouri River system and on recovering the three listed species. MRRIC meets quarterly at different locations throughout the Missouri River Basin. The next meeting will be July 31 – August 2 in Billings. For more information go to: http://mail.iwla.org/exchweb/bin/redir. ... QABQM%253D or http://mail.iwla.org/exchweb/bin/redir. ... QABQM%253D
Missouri River Watershed Education Festival
An all time record of over 400 students attended the 4th annual festival on May 4th at Riverside Park in Yankton. The students rotated between 12 different river-related hands-on presentations. Thanks to the volunteers, planning committee, and presenters for putting together another great event. Also thanks to the Yankton Ikes Chapter for their donation and help to make the festival a huge success.
Missouri River Clean ups
Another successful Missouri River Clean up was held on May 5th in the Yankton area. Over 120 volunteers gathered trash from over 10 miles of the river up and downstream from Riverside Park. Thanks to the federal and state agencies, especially the NE Game and Parks Commission and the SD Game, Fish and Parks Department for providing boats and highly skilled captains to haul people out to the sites and transport the trash back to the boat ramp. The trash was disposed of by the City of Yankton. Here’s what was gathered during the three hour clean up event.
Trash – 1.10 ton
Wood – 0.89 ton
Tires – 0.40 ton
Metal – 1.16 ton
Total 3.55 tons of materials
There are other Missouri River clean ups scheduled this year including: July 11th in Pierre, September 8th in Sioux City, and September 22nd in Omaha/Council Bluffs. Help is needed at all three events. Please let me know if you are willing to help out at any of the events. There is plenty to do and we need people of all ages and abilities to make the events successful.
Missouri River Clean Boat Event
Raising awareness of the threat posed by invasive species is the goal of the annual Clean Boat Event. In the past the event focused on one day reaching out to boaters and anglers in the Gavins Point Dam area near Yankton. The Clean Boat Event provides information and teaches boaters about how to prevent the spread of zebra mussels and Asian carp. These non-native species are present in the Missouri River below Gavins Point Dam but have not spread into Lewis and Clark Lake above the dam. These species would seriously disrupt the health of the reservoirs and their fisheries if they get into them.
This year the League and other groups decided to spread out the event over several weekends in hopes of talking to more boaters. This year’s event started May 12th. The League participated on Saturday, May 19th. We are talking to boaters in SD and NE delivering the message to them that they need to simply Clean, Drain, and Dry their boat and other equipment to prevent the spread of invasive species. Reaction of people to the message has been very positive. The Clean Boat Event will run through June. If you want to help with the Clean Boat Event please let me know.
Missouri River Flood Task Force
The Missouri River Flood Task Force (MRFTF) wrapped up eight months of work on May 24th about a year after the beginning of the Flood of 2011. The MRFTF will be activated again if needed. The task force was formed last fall from federal agencies, representatives of eight states and tribes in the Missouri River Basin. Non-profit organizations, including the League, and other groups representing a range of interests impacted by the flooding last year were involved. The task force was co-chaired by the ACE, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The task force focused on flood repairs, Tribal support, floodplain and river management and communications. Some of the recommendations initiated by the task force will now be implemented by the existing Missouri River Basin Interagency Roundtable (MRBIR) that tackles Missouri River basin issues. Learn more about the Task Force at: http://mail.iwla.org/exchweb/bin/redir. ... QABQM%253D.
News and Notes
Keystone XL Update
NE Residents Sue to Stop State from Fast-tracking Pipeline
Nebraska landowners and environmentalists attempted to stop the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline by filing a State Supreme Court challenge to a new state law fast-tracking approval of a new route for the $5.3 billion Canada-to-U.S. project. The suit argued the pipeline statute violates the state constitution by giving the governor the power to greenlight a final route for Keystone XL and grant eminent domain authority to sponsor TransCanada without due process. Pipeline critics also contested the shifting of jurisdiction from the Public Service Commission to the Department of Environmental Quality.
The Nebraska Supreme Court said it would not hear the suit. "Application to commence original action denied," said the court in a one-sentence reply. With the rejection the plaintiffs - which include landowners along the pipeline route, Bold Nebraska and the Sierra Club - turn their attention to their backup plan: a companion lawsuit filed in Lancaster County District Court.
TransCanada agreed to change the route through Nebraska last year following opposition and the postponement of its federal permit. The new route avoids the Sandhills region which overlays the Ogallala Aquifer - a massive groundwater supply. After TransCanada agreed to look at a route that avoided the Sandhills, NE's unicameral Legislature passed a bill that gave the Public Service Commission authority to conduct public hearings and environmental analysis of the pipeline company's proposal.
Nebraska's hearings on the new proposed route for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast are drawing big crowds. More than 160 people attended a recent meeting in Albion. These hearings are one of the first steps in the state's review of the new proposed route.
Farm Bill Would Cut $23.6 Billion
The farm bill making its way to the Senate floor would cut $23.6 billion from farm programs over the next decade, according to estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office. The legislation would authorize $969 billion in spending over the next decade, CBO said. According to the CBO cuts to conservation programs in the farm bill would total about $6.4 billion over the next 10 years. Energy programs would receive $780 million more than from the current farm bill.
Spending on crop insurance over the next decade would increase about $5.1 billion, while the elimination of direct farmer payments would yield savings of $44.6 billion. A new revenue-insurance program would cost $28.5 billion. The farm bill is five-year legislation, but CBO said it calculated the 10-year costs because it assumes most programs will continue to operate past the bill's expiration.
Sportsmen Urge House to add 'Sodsaver' Provision to Farm Bill
Conservation groups have asked leaders of the House Agriculture Committee to make recently converted grasslands ineligible for crop insurance subsidies. Hunting and fishing groups urged the committee leadership to adopt the "sodsaver" provision in hopes of promoting "responsible stewardship of Ag land and direct program benefits to acreage that is most suited for crop production."
The groups, including the League, previously supported the provision to protect the Prairie Pothole region in North and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. The Senate farm bill approved by the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee included a sodsaver provision sponsored by Senator John Thune (R-SD). While the provision would not completely eliminate federal incentives for converted grassland, sportsmen hailed it, calling it one of their top priorities. The group’s letter calls on Congress to go further than the Thune provision and put in place a full prohibition on incentives for converted land.
Lawmakers Unlikely to Limit Crop Insurance Subsidies or Tie Them to Conservation
The new farm bill is unlikely to return to a policy that required farmers to abide by certain conservation requirements in order to receive crop insurance subsidies from the government. It’s also unlikely that the legislation will set any limits on crop insurance subsidies, given strong opposition from the farming community. The new five-year bill likely will strengthen the program, which is projected to cost the government $90 billion over the next 10 years. The opposition to any limits on crop insurance comes after a year of extreme weather when insurance companies and agents sold policies that covered a record $114 billion in production.
Environmental and conservation groups have been pushing to link conservation requirements to crop insurance. The two were linked from 1985 to 1996, when compliance was dropped to encourage farmers to sign up for the program instead of taking ad hoc assistance when disasters strike. House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) has said he would be hesitant to change the crop insurance program. The Senate Agriculture Committee in its approved farm bill chose not to require payment limits or conservation compliance for crop insurance. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) urged Senate Agriculture leaders to limit all crop insurance subsidy payments to $40,000, a limit recommended by a recent Government Accountability Office report requested by Coburn.
USDA Predicts Record Corn Production
U.S. farmers will produce a record 14.79 billion bushels in 2012-2013 according to a tentative prediction from the Agriculture Department. That is 11 percent higher than the previous record of 13.09 billion bushels in 2009, and 65 percent higher than what corn farmers were producing a decade ago. Global corn production is also expected to be at record levels. Some environmental groups blasted the forecasts, pointing to an increase use of harmful technologies, (draining wetlands and converting grassland), to eke as much production as possible.
$200 Million Enzyme Plant Opens in Nebraska
Danish enzyme maker Novozymes has begun operations in what it's calling the largest U.S. biofuel-enzyme factory. The $200 million project in Blair, Nebraska will supply ethanol plants both in the United States and abroad with enzymes for converting sugars and starch to biofuel. The new plant uses similar technology for both corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, taking in agricultural feedstocks and feeding them to microorganisms that produce enzymes. After refining them, Novozymes will ship them to ethanol plants.
Novozymes, a $1.9 billion global company, currently makes about $320 million from its biofuels business and has about 60 percent of the U.S. enzyme market for biofuels. The company searched the world for a site for the plant and chose the Blair, Nebraska location over other potential sites in China mainly because the customer base in the Midwest meant that transportation logistics would be easier. It is also positioned to take in key raw materials from neighboring Cargill Inc. The project was delayed twice - once in 2008 because of the financial crisis, and last year when the Missouri River flooding left Novozymes without a means to transport large modules.
Land and Water Conservation Funding (LWCF) Provisions Important to Sportsmen
Conservation and other groups are calling on Congress to maintain funding for land and water conservation programs as they debate a final transportation bill. The groups say there’s an urgent need to protect wetlands and native prairies in the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area. A House and Senate conference committee is debating two versions of a transportation bill in hopes of finding agreement on one final package before the current authorization expires on June 30th.
The Senate’s version of the bill (S. 1813) ensures the funds authorized for the LWCF are spent for their intended purpose over the next two years and permanently commits 1.5 percent of LWCF funds to projects that provide public access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. The LWCF funding provision was passed as an amendment on the Senate floor by an overwhelming 76-22 bipartisan vote. Securing this funding is vital for areas like the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), one of the country’s most at-risk landscapes and one of great importance to migratory waterfowl and upland birds.
The Dakota Grassland Conservation Area (DGCA) project would accelerate the conservation of native prairie and wetlands within the PPR of North and South Dakota. The DGCA will protect this severely threatened ecosystem while preserving the working landscape of ranching operations.
New Iowa Group Hopes to Reverse Decline in Hunter Numbers
Outdoor enthusiasts and business groups have announced a new organization to promote hunting in Iowa, hoping to reverse years of declining license sales. The newly formed Hunting Works for Iowa will stress the economic boost that hunting gives to the state. It estimates that hunters spend more than $288 million in the state annually and create 6,200 jobs according to the Iowa Retail Federation
Hunting Works for Iowa includes about 45 groups plans to boost hunting by watching public policy and pushing for hunting-friendly regulations while detailing how hunting benefits the state’s economy. The number of hunting licenses issued in Iowa has declined for 10 straight years, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The DNR issued 194,019 resident hunting licenses in 2001 and that dropped to 160,466 last year.
DNR officials blamed several factors including harsh winters that have hurt wildlife populations, less available habitat, and an increasingly urban population that is less likely to hunt. Wildlife populations have been hurt by cultivation of more land as farmers sought to cash in on high corn and soybean prices.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Director: 'What can we do Together?'
New Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Director Jim Douglas is traveling the state to introduce himself to conservation and community leaders, asking them what can we do together? Douglas wants to listen to what Nebraskans want from the state's fish, wildlife, parks and outdoor recreation resources.
Game and Parks works with dozens of conservation-minded organizations. Recent projects include archery in schools, family fishing camps, opening eight sites to hunting along the Platte River, working with landowners to provide pheasant habitat and alerting boaters about aquatic invasive species. The Commission helped hunters and anglers gained access to more than 272,000 privately held acres last year. The state’s five hatcheries produced and stocked about 35.5 million fish into 274 public water bodies.
Douglas said communities and groups need to be aware of opportunities to apply for federal funds available through Game and Parks for recreational developments. Partnerships are critical because Game and Parks has a $20 million maintenance backlog in the parks system. Hunters and anglers self-finance most hunting and fishing programs through the purchase of equipment and permits. Fees paid by parks users plus some taxpayer money finances the parks system.
Douglas said the commission will be working closely with the new Nebraska Tourism Commission to market the state's outdoor resources. The outdoors is big business in Nebraska. Fishing supports about 3,400 jobs in the state. The commission sold nearly 1.2 million hunting, fishing and park permits last year.
The activity in Nebraska's parks supports more than 5,900 jobs and generates retail sales of $324 million.
Douglas, 61, succeeded Rex Amack, who retired recently after 24 years as director. Douglas had been deputy director since 2010, after serving as wildlife division administrator since 1994.
More Land added to the Conservation Reserve Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has accepted 3.9 million acres into a popular program that pays landowners for taking environmentally sensitive land out of production. USDA said the acres, coupled with land from other initiatives, would bring total enrollment in its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to about 29 million acres as of Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year. The figure still would remain below the 32 million acre cap allowed by Congress.
South Dakota will see more land in CRP next year with 55,202 acres added, more than offsetting the 43,815 that will expire September 30th. An estimated 29.6 million acres nationally are enrolled in CRP, with contracts for 6.5 million acres set to expire this fall. The USDA received almost 48,000 offers on more than 4.5 million acres of land during the five-week sign up period across the country. Offers are examined for benefits in reduced soil erosion and improved air quality, water purity, wildlife habitat and long-term benefits. Rental payments would average $51.24 an acre annually.
CRP, created in 1985, pays producers in 41 states to idle environmentally sensitive land for 10 years or more. CRP reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from farm fields, increase carbon sequestration and put $1.8 billion into the farm economy last year. The program is popular with conservation groups in states such as Iowa and South Dakota because the idled land reduces erosion and provides wildlife habitat.
President Obama said the USDA should cap CRP at 30 million acres. The farm bill passed in April by the Senate Agriculture Committee proposed reducing the acres to 25 million. Some farm groups have proposed even more drastic cuts. The National Oilseed Processors Association said CRP should be cut to 15 million acres after data that showed low soybean stockpiles.
Celebrate 90 Years of Defending Outdoor America at the Annual convention
This year the League is celebrating a milestone that very few organizations in this country can claim. This summer's convention in Lincoln is a time to celebrate our history of achievements and set a path forward. Visit the 2012 convention page at: http://www.iwla.org/index.php?ht=a/GetD ... on/i/25348 for more information and registration information.
And finally there’s this….
Angler Gets Bear Scare
Dominique Bowens of Duluth was fishing near the end of the Duluth ship canal’s pier recently when the amplified voice of Lift Bridge Supervisor Ryan Beamer came from the bridge’s loudspeaker. Beamer said “To the person fishing at the end pier, be advised there is a black bear coming your way”.
“I thought he was kidding,” Bowens said. “I turned around, and there was a bear.” On the pier, Bowens was retreating up the stairs to the lighthouse. “I moved away as far as I could.” About 100 feet from Bowens, the bear turned around and made its way back down the pier. As it neared land, Lift Bridge operator Dale Mitchell banged on metal and shouted at the bear scaring it away.