Farmers, Ranchers and other landowners in Northwest Oklahoma will soon have the option to receive stewardship payments for work done to protect and expand the habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken under a new program that will be partially funded by a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant that has been awarded to the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).   

According to OACD Executive Director Clay Pope, this new initiative builds on the success of the Oklahoma Carbon Credit Program and is designed to put dollars directly into the pockets of land owners who take action to protect this imperiled species.

“We are excited about the opportunity this grant provides to us in developing this new program to help landowners while protecting the Lesser Prairie Chicken,” Pope said.  “By undertaking a program that gives a direct financial incentive for agriculture producers and other landowners to protect this species, it changes the nature of the game from one that costs landowners dollars to one that actually provides a financial benefit to folks who practice good stewardship on their land.  This grant will go a long way toward getting this program off the ground.”

Authorized by the 2008 farm bill, the Conservation Innovation Grant program (CIG) is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies for agriculture production. CIG promotes sharing of skills, knowledge, technologies and facilities among communities, governments, and other institutions to ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users. 

Under CIG, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds are used to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or non-governmental organizations, Tribes or individuals.  OACD will receive more than $412,000 to develop a credit program to help mitigate the loss of the habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken under a program similar to their successful Carbon Credit Program.

According to Dave White, Chief of the NRCS, this grant received by OACD is one among many nationwide that will help some of America’s top agricultural and conservation institutions, foundations and businesses develop unique approaches to enhance and protect natural resources on agricultural land.

OACD President Joe Parker says this partnership is another way the Oklahoma Conservation Partnership of local Conservation Districts, OACD, the Conservation Commission and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are helping landowners conserve the state’s Natural Resources.