The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has expanded the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to work in partnership with state and local interests to meet state-specific environmental objectives. The revised program, called Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), will spend approximately $110 million on implementing conservation practices in the Green River CREP area.
Under CREP, agricultural producers can enter into contracts from 10 years to 15 years to convert eligible cropland to stands of native grasses, trees and other conservation practices. In return, producers receive annual rental payments, incentive payments for certain activities and cost-share assistance. The CREP is a program implemented through the Farm Service Agency with technical assistance from NRCS. The Division of Conservation is the lead contact agency for the state of Kentucky. More information on the CREP program is available on their Web site.
The designated program area encompasses the Upper Green River drainage area from the reservoir dams on the Nolin, Green River and Barren River to the confluence of the Green River and the Barren River. The area encompasses all or part of 14 counties, including Adair, Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Grayson, Green, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Russell, Simpson, Taylor and Warren.
CREP – Monitoring
A broad spectrum of government agencies, environmental groups and universities are involved in environmental monitoring in the Upper Green River watershed. As a means of measuring the water quality improvements through the CREP program, these groups are collectively assessing the environmental conditions pre- and post-CREP implementation. Their work will provide data that can be used to measure the success of the CREP program. Participating groups include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geologic Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Mammoth Cave National Park Service, Kentucky Division of Water, Kentucky Division of Forestry, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, Western Kentucky University and Campbellsville University.
Western Kentucky University was granted federal funding to conduct monitoring in the CREP area. Additionally, data collected from the Upper Green River and its tributaries by other partners will be used to help demonstrate whether the conservation practices implemented on the ground are meeting the objectives of the CREP program. The goals and objectives of the CREP program are:
- To reduce by 10 percent the amount of sediment, nutrients and pesticides from agricultural sources entering the tributaries and main stem of the Green River and Mammoth Cave system through the installation of best management practices designed for that purpose, and other conservation practices designed to improve water quality.
- To enhance habitats and populations of wildlife, including those listed as state and federal special concern, rare, threatened and endangered.
- To sustain and restore the composition, structure and function of riparian habitat corridors associated with the Green River and tributary watersheds.
- To reconnect habitat types in order to restore the full range of ecosystem function.
- To establish buffers around sinkholes, targeting 1,000 high-priority sinkholes.
- To sustain and restore nonriparian wetlands.
- To protect and restore subterranean ecosystems.
- To collect, store and analyze data to enhance planning for sustaining the health of the watershed.
- To develop an outreach program targeting all active agricultural producers in the area.
- To utilize native species, including warm season grasses, to the greatest extent possible.