Ohio’s Conservation Programs Advisory Committee reminds sportsmen and women owning land in the Lake Erie watershed they can create quality wildlife habitat by participating in the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Sportsmen and women can choose from a number of practices that provide unique wildlife habitat, including wetland restorations to attract waterfowl, grass buffer strips for wild turkey production and white-tailed deer fawn-rearing areas, and multi-row windbreaks that can provide travel corridors for pheasant, and bobwhite quail. Also available is a conservation practice to create pollinator habitat by planting wildflowers that bloom throughout the growing season and will enhance an area for many wildlife species. These habitat improvement projects also work to prevent chemicals, soil, and other contaminants from running off cropland and into waterways.
Participants can earn money on less economically viable cropland, such as areas of land that historically lay wet, as well as cropland bordering ditch banks and streams. The Lake Erie CREP annual soil rental payments average $249 to $362 per acre for 15 years depending on the type of conservation practice installed. FSA will also provide cost-share assistance to create the wildlife habitat. In most cases this cost-share will be close to 90 percent of the cost of the project. Some habitat practices also include a $150 per acre bonus sign-up payment.
Landowners are required to maintain the habitat according to a conservation plan developed specifically for their property. The annual income from the conservation practice will be similar to what is paid for cash rent on similar soils in the county where the land is enrolled.
Lake Erie CREP is a voluntary program that helps landowners protect environmentally sensitive land, reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, prevent water pollution, minimize the risk of flooding, and create wildlife habitat and safeguard ground and surface water. The program has a goal of enrolling 67,000 acres. Currently 47,000 acres have been enrolled. There are presently only 20,000 acres left available for signup.
The program is focused on improving water quality and soil conservation in the Lake Erie watershed, with a special emphasis on the Blanchard and Tiffin rivers as important tributaries on the Maumee River. The Lake Erie CREP is available in 27 counties: Allen, Ashland, Auglaize, Crawford, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Lucas, Lorain, Marion, Medina, Mercer, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams, Wood and Wyandot.
These conservation practices target environmentally sensitive areas in the Lake Erie watershed to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, prevent water pollution, minimize the risk of flooding and enhance wildlife habitat.
Sportsmen and women who want to create wildlife habitat and reduce soil erosion while providing cleaner water may contact ODNR Division of Wildlife private lands biologist Mark Witt for technical assistance at (419) 898-0960, ext. 26.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.