Cattlemen and The Nature Conservancy 
Jointly Hail New Grassland Reserve Program

Program Will Benefit Ranchers and Help Conserve Imperiled Ecosystems

 from Liberty Matters

Washington, D.C. (May 8, 2002) – The Nature Conservancy and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, continuing their ground-breaking partnership, today jointly hailed the creation of the new Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), touting it as an important buffer against the loss of grasslands to suburban sprawl and other incompatible development. 


The GRP was included in the 2002 Farm Bill which today was given final approval by the U.S. Senate.  The bill now moves on to President Bush's desk for his signature.


The Nature Conservancy and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) have been working together for about two years to conceive, create and build support for a program to conserve native grasslands.  The Grassland Reserve Program is the fruit of that partnership.


Both organizations today extended their thanks to the members of Congress who supported this new program and helped ensure its creation.


Under the GRP, ranchers and other private grassland owners who enroll in the program agree to place 10, 15, 20 or 30 -year rental contracts or 30 -year or permanent easements on their land, prohibiting development and other activities incompatible with conserving grassland ecosystems.  In return, landowners receive annual payments for short-term contracts  or either a one-time payment for permanent easements or up to 10 annual payments for easements.  The Farm Bill authorizes up to 2 million acres to be enrolled in the program, at a cost of up to $254 million.  The program also makes additional resources available to assist landowners in restoring enrolled grasslands.


The Cattlemen and the Conservancy share a strong commitment to keeping working landscapes, including ranches, intact.  Doing so helps ensure a viable and strong rural economy and helps conserve one of our nation's most threatened ecosystems and the plant and animal species it supports.


 “We are pleased that, by partnering with The Nature Conservancy, we were able to develop a constructive program that meets our common goals,” said Chandler Keys, Vice President of Public Policy for NCBA.  “The GRP will, in this time of uncertainty and change, help continue the ranching tradition by preserving the open spaces for future generations.”


"One of the Conservancy's top conservation objectives is to keep large grassland landscapes intact and available to support native plant and animal species," said Karen Berky, Vice President and Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy.  "This forward-thinking legislation provides an important incentive-based tool for accomplishing that goal.  This new program embodies the notion that through partnership and cooperation we can find conservation solutions that can protect wildlife and a way of life."


The new Grassland Reserve Program imposes no regulation on grazing and allows private entities, such as ranching land trusts, to hold easements under the program.


The ecological status of many existing grassland systems are heavily influenced at the local level by combinations of habitat fragmentation, undesirable habitat changes due to fire exclusion, declining range conditions due to improper grazing management, and loss of habitat values due to the spread of invasive and non-native plants. As a result, many species found only in grasslands ecosystems have declined substantially in the recent past.   The GRP will help address these disturbing trends by providing grassland owners with financial incentives to conserve and restore important grassland ecosystems.

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