Improving Co-Benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program for Biodiversity

With Alison Johnston, Catherine Kling, Amanda Rodewald, and Ivan Rudik


Decades of agricultural intensification have resulted in the degradation of ecosystem services that aggravates the loss of habitat and biodiversity. Among the most concerning is the loss of grassland bird species in North America. This study presents large-scale evidence that Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the largest private agricultural land retirement program funded by the Farm Bill, leads to increased grassland bird abundance and richness. We find that birders on average observe 3.5 times the number of birds, and twice the number of species, in a county enrolling all eligible land into CRP compared to a county without any CRP fields. However, we find suggestive evidence that the magnitude of the benefits is smaller on the national scale than what has been reported in regional field experiments.