Grassland habitat is in decline in New York State, which is key to the survival of grassland breeding songbirds, such as bobolink, Eastern meadowlark, and savannah sparrow.
One program that aims to help these species is the New York Grassland Habitat SAFE (State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement) – Conservation Reserve Program (PDF).
Nearly 4,000 acres have been enrolled into the SAFE-CRP program in New York State since it began in 2008. The program is administered by the Farm Service Agency, while the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation staff provide technical service by writing site conservation plans tailored to each individual property.
Lands in current agricultural production can be converted to grassland habitat through a combination of applying an approved grassland seed mix, cutting woody vegetation, and strategically timed mowing. General areas eligible for this program are the Finger Lakes, Lake Plains, Southern Tier of Western New York, and the Mohawk River and St. Lawrence River Valleys.
Current and former agricultural producers who own land in these regions have an opportunity to enroll in this federal program where the goal is restoration, creation, and/or maintenance of grassland habitat for these declining songbirds.
Check with your local US Department of Agriculture office to confirm eligibility requirements.
Additional benefits of grassland habitat management include protecting:
- nesting and foraging habitat for American Kestrel;
- wintering habitat for Northern harrier and the state endangered short-eared owl; and
- soil layers and native micro-organisms, which gives them a chance to rejuvenate their relationship with the roots of grasses (reducing erosion and protecting water quality).
Photo of short-eared owls by Dori Stathopoulos.