By Christina Schmidt
Just two years into the Corners for Conservation (C4C) program in northeast Colorado, Jerry Miller, a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill biologist, is hearing good things. He’s hearing from landowners pleased with the ease of sign up and the reliability of annual payments for their conservation efforts. He hears from hunters, excited about new hunting opportunities in previously inaccessible areas. But perhaps the most important feedback he receives is when he walks the enrolled fields and hears the calls of pheasants, bobwhites, meadowlarks, lark bunting and the busy hum of bees and pollinators.
“These acres are truly alive with all kinds of insects, birds, small animals and large animals like mule deer,” he said.
Corners for Conservation aka C4C
C4C began in 2016 when a team of representatives from Pheasants Forever and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), alarmed by the loss of almost 50,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields in four of Colorado’s top five pheasant counties, developed a partnership to address the habitat loss and increase hunter access.
The program works because of the geometric realities of farming on the high-desert plains. Land here is divided into 640-acre sections, and then further into 160-acre quarter sections that create a checkerboard pattern of corn, wheat, sugar beet and sunflower fields. While most crops are grown with natural precipitation, called dryland farming, some are watered by center-pivot irrigation systems which miss the outlying 7 to 8 acres in each corner of the square.