Feds Provide Conservation Funds, But Won't Disclose Recipients

August 31, 2011

The US Dept. of Agriculture is touting its funding for a subprogram within the 25-year-old Conservation Reserve Program called State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). SAFE, which began in 2008, has a national cap of 850,000 acres, and is generally designed to enhance grasslands, prairie, and sage habitat so they better support threatened and endangered, rare, or declining species. Landowners voluntarily participate, and receive money for fulfilling various requirements after they sign up for a 10- or 15-year contract.

However, USDA spokeswoman Isabel Benemelis, 202-720-7809, declined to release the names or locations of the landowners who are likely to be participating in two new SAFE efforts, saying journalists have to make such requests via FOIA.

That approach raises the issue of why USDA won't disclose who is involved. You can begin to dig into this via a FOIA, or by first trying pertinent state offices to see if they are more transparent.

In one of the new SAFE efforts, USDA is reallocating about 154,000 acres that had been either unallocated or allocated but not used due to low interest, and establishing similar acreage in AR, CO, ID, IN, MT, NE, TN, and TX.

Most of the landowners who want to sign up for the new SAFE acres already are known to the pertinent county Farm Service Agency office, Benemelis says.

For more details on SAFE, and the Conservation Reserve Program, see:

In another new SAFE project, USDA says about 150 farmers in the prairie pothole region (IA, MN, MT, ND, SD) have applied to participate in efforts to improve grasslands, water quality, and habitat for certain migratory birds. However, Benemelis declined to reveal more information about the program, or to identify the landowners. To try to find out more, contact the Farm Service Agency office for each of the 5 states.