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News Release

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USDA and Partners Make Progress in Protecting Bird Habitat on Public and Private Lands

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2011 – Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman and Interior Secretary Salazar today announced the release of the "2011 State of the Birds" report that shows federal agencies and partners are making progress in protecting and preserving bird habitat across the country.

"This report reflects significant achievements by public agencies and all of our long-standing partners in improving bird habitats," Sherman said. "The USDA programs are particularly innovative and creative. Over the past two years, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has played a critical role in working cooperatively with landowners to conserve migratory birds in Gulf of Mexico flyways, sage grouse in the West and Great Plains. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) helps protect bird habitat through a handful of programs including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). And the U.S. Forest Service has developed a draft Forest Planning rule that will ensure our National Forests support birds and other wildlife for decades to come."

The Forest Service is the largest single land manager of forests in the United States. The national forests, grasslands, and wetlands managed by the Forest Service provide critical habitat for hundreds of birds including many whose populations are in decline. The agency measures the effectiveness of its forest and grassland management plans by the numbers of bird species on those lands. These data allow Forest Service to improve its habitat management techniques.

NRCS and its partners are working with ranchers and farmers in 11 Western states to improve habitat for the sage grouse, an at-risk species in decline over the past several decades. With NRCS assistance, ranchers have made 640,000 acres of grazing land more hospitable to sage-grouse, removed 40,000 acres of invasive trees, and seeded 11,000 acres of deteriorating rangeland with native vegetation.

NRCS and its partners, including farmers and major conservation organizations, have created more than 470,000 acres of wildlife habitat in Gulf of Mexico flyways in states in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The projects completed through this initiative also provide needed water supplies during drought, support local economies by attracting hunters and bird watchers, and help NRCS improve wildlife management.

FSA assistance through CRP allows farmers to help safeguard environmentally sensitive land by planting long-term resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. With continuous sign-ups to improve habitat for quail and ducks, and with the commitment of acreage under the SAFE program (State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement) to restore habitat for sage grouse, lesser prairie chickens and other birds, the CRP is improving bird habitat.

FSA's Grassland Reserve Program, Emergency Conservation Program, and Emergency Forest Restoration Program all contribute to the enhancement of wildlife habitat.

Learn more about the USDA Forest Service at www.fs.fed.us/, NRCS at www.nrcs.usda.gov/ and FSA at www.fsa.usda.gov.

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