With over half of the land in the United States currently managed as cropland, rangeland, or private forest, working landscapes are critical for wildlife habitat, water quality, and carbon sequestration. Congress must ensure that working lands are a part of the solution to climate change. Farmers, ranchers and forest owners can play a leading role in preparing for and mitigating climate change while supporting wildlife and protecting clean water.
Farm Bill conservation programs are voluntary, incentive-based programs that enable farmers, ranchers, and forest owners to adopt conservation practices on working lands, and Congress should include equitable and comprehensive environmental provisions in the next Farm Bill. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill is implemented in a way that maximizes the benefits to soil, water, and wildlife, including making sure that the Conservation Reserve Program enrollment gets back on track after dropping to a thirty-year low. In the lead up to the 2023 Farm Bill, the National Wildlife Federation will be looking for Congress to establish ways to significantly increase conservation funding, promote climate-smart agriculture practices, conserve native grasslands and wetlands, and increase opportunities to enhance carbon sequestration on private forestlands.
Grasslands continue to be one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world; over the last decade alone, millions of acres of grasslands in North America have been converted to cropland, leading to dramatic losses in the abundance and diversity of our grassland wildlife, particularly grassland birds. Conversion also strips the prairie’s remarkable ability to store carbon. Congress must act quickly to conserve and restore North America’s native grasslands in order to support working grasslands and ranchers, restore degraded grasslands, sequester carbon, and prevent further loss of grassland wildlife and the plant species and communities on which they depend. Congress should pass a new North American Grasslands Conservation Act, modeled after the popular and effective North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA), in order to kickstart the protection and restoration of North America’s grasslands and the livelihoods and wildlife that depend on them.
Photo credits: USFWS (northern pintail)
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.