Agricultural landowners in southern Michigan have a new opportunity to earn income while voluntarily protecting their soil and water quality and providing critical habitat for pheasants, grassland songbirds, and monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
Michigan’s newest State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Pheasant and Monarch Recovery program offers landowners technical and financial incentives to restore native grasslands and wetlands on active cropland. SAFE is an enhanced version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program with an emphasis on restoring habitat for species with declining populations. [read more]
It’s no secret that Michigan’s pheasant population has decreased dramatically in recent decades. Monarch butterfly populations have struggled too, with an estimated 80-percent decline in the past two decades. Habitat loss and changing agricultural practices are leading causes of these decreases.
Recovery of these iconic species still is possible by providing habitat where it has been eliminated previously. Biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever and other partners designed SAFE to provide pheasants and monarchs the habitat types they need, including seed mixtures devised to provide seasonal habitat requirements.
Landowners have a variety of options to enhance their property, ranging from entire agricultural fields to linear strips along a waterway or field border. Creating large blocks of native grasses and wildflowers provides critical nesting, brood-rearing and winter cover for pheasants, as well as milkweed and nectar resources for monarchs. Grass buffers along waterways and field edges provide travel corridors for wildlife and help protect Michigan’s environment by reducing soil erosion and preventing excess sediments and nutrients from entering waterways. Optional practices include switchgrass to provide secure winter cover, early successional habitat for pheasant brood-rearing habitat and food plots to provide supplemental food resources.
SAFE is available in southern Michigan counties identified in state and regional wildlife plans as having high potential to recover pheasant and monarch populations by increasing available habitat: Allegan, Arenac, Barry, Bay, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Clare, Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Gladwin, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Huron, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Mecosta, Midland, Monroe, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Ottawa, Saginaw, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Tuscola, Van Buren and Washtenaw.
Agricultural land that was cropped, or considered cropped, four out of six years from 2008 to 2013 and that meets minimum size requirements is eligible for enrollment. Enrolled landowners receive an annual soil rental payment plus a 90-percent cost share to establish selected habitat types. Landowners may select contracts ranging from 10 to 15 years.
Minimum size requirements:
- Habitat blocks: 10 or more acres; less than 10 acres if adjacent to an existing grassland, wetland or woodlot, creating a total of 10 or more acres.
- Habitat corridors: linear strips up to 150 feet wide totaling a minimum of 0.5 acres.
SAFE enrollment is limited to 40,000 acres, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Interested landowners in southern Michigan are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center for additional information.