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Survey of Tennessee Landowners Participating in Conservation Reserve Program Practice Focused on Restoring Native Grasslands and Northern Bobwhite in Tennessee

The State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practice of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in Tennessee is targeted to help
restore native habitats to benefit the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and other declining early successional wildlife. A survey of a subset of

participating landowners was conducted to assess landowner perceptions of and experiences with the practice and perceived wildlife response. The sur-
vey response rate was 58% (73 of 126 surveys mailed). All respondents were owners of the CRP SAFE tracts at the time of the survey, and most (91%)

managed the SAFE tracts themselves. SAFE contracts had been active for an average of seven years and ranged from 2 to 213 ha in size, with a mean
of 21.0±30.4 ha. Most of the respondents indicated they had received about the right amount of information prior to signing the SAFE contract (over

90%) and technical guidance and assistance after signing the contract and during implementation (over 86%). Almost half (46.2%) of respondents ex-
perienced no barriers to establishing SAFE vegetation. Strip disking was the approved mid-contract practice most commonly applied to manage herba-
ceous vegetation (72.7%) and prescribed fire the least used (16.9%), although 39.2% indicated an interest in applying prescribed fire if they had training.

Most (88.5%) respondents were favorable or neutral about liking the appearance of their SAFE vegetation. Respondents most frequently reported that
they encountered problems with controlling unwanted tree saplings or other woody vegetation that was not planted (45 respondents; 80.4%), invading
agricultural weeds (23 respondents; 41.1%), and failure of planted shrub seedlings in planned woody thickets (16 respondents; 28.6%). Respondents
most frequently reported increased populations of cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), wild turkey
(Meleagris gallopavo), bobwhites, and songbirds once SAFE vegetation was established (41.9%–66.2% of respondents). Almost half of the respondents
(49.2%) perceived bobwhite covey numbers had increased on their SAFE tract, and only 6.2% perceived a decline. Should perception reflect actual

changes in bobwhite numbers, this can provide encouragement to managers considering the small acreage of some SAFE tracts and the general scat-
tered distribution of SAFE tracts on the landscape. General landowner satisfaction with the practice, level of technical guidance, and perception of

bobwhite and other wildlife response warrant continued efforts to improve and promote the practice and increase participation.

Author: Mark J. Gudlin, Adam S. Willcox, Kirstin E. Fagan, Roger D. Applegate | Year: 2019 | Pages: 111-116
bobwhite, conservation, SAFE
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