Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a federal-state cooperative conservation program that addresses targeted agricultural-related environmental concerns.
CREP participants voluntarily enroll in 14- to 15-year Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). Participants receive financial incentives to remove cropland and marginal pastureland from agricultural production. Converting enrolled land to native grasses, trees and other applicable vegetation improves soil retention and water, air and wildlife habitat quality.
The Colorado Republican River CREP, implemented in 2006, targets the enrollment of 35,000 acres in the Republican River Basin to reduce irrigation water use and contaminants. The CREP agreement is a partnership between farmers, ranchers, FSA, the State of Colorado and the Republican River Water Conservation District’s Water Activity Enterprise. In addition to CREP and non-federal payments, the District offers an incentive payment to permanently retire irrigation water use for CREP-enrolled irrigated cropland.
The goals of the Colorado Republican River CREP are to:
- Enroll 35,000 acres of land into the CREP to establish native grasses, riparian buffers and wildlife habitat and to restore wetlands
- Reduce by 5 percent Republican River and Ogallala Aquifer irrigation water used for agricultural purposes
- Achieve 30,000 to 35,000 acre-foot annual groundwater savings through the retirement of landowners’ permanent water rights
- Reduce 374,000 tons of soil erosion annually
- Reduce 2,900 tons of fertilizer and pesticide application annually;
o Restore and enhance at least 30 miles of riparian habitat and 500 acres of degraded wetlands
- Ensure adequate stream flow that will accommodate targeted fish species, including the stonecat, suckermouth minnow, brassy minnow and plains minnow
- Enroll up to 1,000 acres of riparian buffers and wetlands to restore stream and wetland hydraulic and geomorphic characteristics to meet the habitat needs of targeted fish species
- Reduce by 5 percent from 2004 levels the number of groundwater wells containing nitrogen levels above Environmental Protection Agency standards
- Reduce 2.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity use by decreasing groundwater pumping; and
- Help farmers and ranchers address wildlife issues and meet state and local water quantity and quality requirements.
- The United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) proposes to implement an Amendment to the RR CREP for the State of Colorado. The proposed Amendment increases the enrollment goal to a total of 55,000 acres and opens enrollment to Washington and Lincoln counties.
- After review by the FSA, it was determined that a supplemental Environmental Assessment must be completed to analyze the potential consequences associated with an increase in acres and the inclusion of Washington and Lincoln counties proposed by the Amendment, including biological resources, cultural resources, water resources, socioeconomics, and environmental justice.
- The contract to begin work on the Environmental Assessment is currently being drafted.